Old Horse Books. 1827. Secrets of top horse dealers by major S. von Tenneker…

The full title translates as something in the following lines: “Revealing of methods which horse dealers use to beautify horses, make them look younger and subsequently use those methods to cheat on horse buyers”

[rather long title!]. 

Written in 1827 by a major in the Royal Saxon cavalry, a vet and horse carer, member of some intellectual societies (couldn’t find any more information), this little book has been sitting in my horsey library since since around 1997 and as far as I am aware it’s available in German and Polish only. There is a 2001 edition (in Polish translation) available to buy through the below link:

Tenneker

Click on image above to go to the Bookstore (in Polish)

The book is full of fascinating bits of information and I will share a few gems! Although the title suggests it is all about how to cheat the buyer, the book actually is also a little bit of a guide of good practice for horse dealers too. Next to advice on how to trick the buyer there is usually a sound advice on how to avoid having to have to trick in the first place. However, there is plenty of questionable advice too! 

The book is written and translated into an old-fashioned language which I am not even going to attempt to replicate in English (my written English is eventful as it is without further challenges 😉

So, here are some 1827 pearls of wisdom (not always so wise)…

  • Thinning and shortening of the mane.  Author advises that short and thin mane gives even most ordinary looking horse a more noble, pedigree look. He says that the well bred horses usually have their manes thin and delicate. He goes on to say that although the mane thinning is only an illusion of delicate mane, this is no problem and usually sufficiently misleading because most of the buyers have no idea what they are seeing. This means a dealer can sell an ordinary horse for a well bred one. This is because, once the mane is shortened and thinned, the neck appears to be longer, better shaped; the forehand seems lighter, more impressive. In one word, the whole posture of the horse appears to be freer, more energetic, more pleasant to the eye.
  • Trimming of hairs from ears. Removing whiskers and other facial hair as well as hair around lower legs. All this contributes to a noble look of the horse as well as makes it appear younger, nicer shaped. Thanks to removal of hair from the ears, horse’s hearing sharpens and sounds irritate him more making him appear more switched on, alert. Even laziest horses, once hair is trimmed from their ears, will listen intently, move their ears a lot and appear to be more hot blooded. 
  • Taking off shoes and tidying up the hooves. Author advises immediate removal of shoes if only the horse can go without. He states that barefoot horses are a huge asset to any horse dealer because their movement is more confident, slower and more pleasant to the rider. If horse can go unshod, good dealer should never sell a shod horse. Author advises that the shoes change the movement and posture of the horse so much that if the horse changes after being sold it is usually only because he got shod. He goes on to say that the negative change occurs because even best shod horse has his movement somewhat restricted by shoeing. His motion becomes stiffer i.e. shoeing decreases elasticity to any quick manoeuvres. Everybody can find out this difference riding forwards on a barefoot horse, then again once he is shod. 
  • In his stable, a good dealer should always maintain absolute cleanliness. He should also have a really good horse that stands in the first stable any buyer will see. This horse does not have to move well but he must look beautiful and tempt buyers onto the yard. 
  • Horses should be positioned in the stable according to their colour: lighter horses in darker boxes and dark horses in lighter spaces in the stable. This underlines their colours and make them look more attractive like a well set photograph. Never should the horses of the same colour be stabled next to one another because then they all appear the same and their individual beauty is gone. Nothing shows off a horse better than the right play of light and shade which sharpens the shapes, silhouettes and colours themselves. 
  • An exception of the above rule are driving horses. They should be matched by colour but smallest ones need to be positioned from the left and biggest from the right end so the eye of the buyer wanders from the smallest to biggest, never opposite because then the smaller horses suffer. 
  • Horses should be shown on soft ground first, but not too deep so they don’t sink in and tire. Lame horse is more obvious on a hard ground and soft ground helps mask various issues. Clever riding on soft surface also helps draw attention away from any lameness. 
  • The stable floor where the horse is shown should be such that when the horse is stood for buyer his forehand is elevated slightly. This gives the horse prouder appearance, he seems bigger. Many faults can be hidden like this (shaking knees, crooked legs). Even most beautiful horse lacks in appearance if he is stood with his hindquarters higher than his withers. 
  • Dealer should have the best berajter possible who knows all issues of the horse he is showing. Authors lists plenty of advice on how to show horses with weak front or weak back and what paces to show them in etc. He also have a ready advice on hiding lamenesses (!). For example, if the horse is lame on right front or right hind leg, berajter must avoid any sharp turns to the right, circles to the right but always produce movements to the left whilst keeping a whip and spur firmly activating the right weak leg, always keeping it alive and active. 
  • When showing sharp horses berajter must be delicate, very calm and patient so they appear calmer than they are. With lazy horses, he must constantly activate them with a whip or spurs (discreetly of course)
  • Berajter must know how to ride a horse with every possible fault in such a way that those faults are least obvious to the buyer (then goes a long list of specific advice on specific conformation issues). This includes placing of the tack in a way that shows the horse off (like putting a saddle further back on a horse with a short neck which helps him appear freer in front, the shoulders move better and neck seems longer).
  • Bridle should have all straps relatively loose so green horse feels no restrictions and advanced horse has freedom to show off his skills and not be distracted.

There are many more.

The book is fascinating but also rather disturbing to read because some advice is simply cruel or verging on such (tying up tails, sticking pepper into horse’s anus, making them alert with frequent whip tapping in the stable). It can be quite a good read for those who are on a horse search mission because, sadly, I have seen many methods described in this book used quite happily by modern day dealers…

Buyers beware…

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