25 October 2011

Lt.-Col. Maxwell Fielding McTaggart (1874-1936)

Some of the pithiest lines on horses--and men--came from Great Britain's Lt.-Col. M. F. McTaggart. I first read some of them in John Richard Young's still worthy books.

Now I'm finally getting around to ordering copies of McTaggart's books. From this snippet, I can say I'm truly looking forward to reading a good many of them.

Preface for Stable and Saddle (1930)

It is now nearly half a century since I bestrode my first pony, and consequently I think it may be said that I was brought up in an old-fashioned school. At any rate I absorbed whatever I was told, and accepted it as truth, and I practiced the principles of those days with enthusiasm. But as the years went on, I began to realize that all I had been told, and all that I had read, did not quite ring true. I found results so disappointing that I became determined to probe things for myself, to test theories, to examine statements, and to be satisfied with no replies that did not have a sound and logical line of reasoning to support them.

As I proceeded to take this detached line of thought; and to accept no convention until its utility had been ultimately proved, I found what a remarkable hold habit, custom, and imitation could have upon horse-owners.

To ask “Why?” was unpopular. Reasons were difficult to give, and “It has always been done that way” was a frequent reply.

Because someone has been successful in his schooling or management, it does not necessarily imply that his methods are so good that improvement is impossible.

I hold the view that change is the forerunner of progress, and that unless we are ready to examine new standpoints and to alter our views when reason justifies it, we are no longer mentally alert. Our minds must flow along in a living stream of new ideas, and not stagnate in the dark and murky pools of backwaters, or gyrate in eddies which take us nowhere but downwards.

In my investigations I have been surprised to find what influence stud-grooms and other such persons have with their employers, for no other reason than that they have been with horses all their lives.

Because a man happens to have held some view all his life, which possibly he was taught by his father, it does not mean that it is right, although it certainly may be. It can be worthy of acceptance only when supported by sound reasons.

In this short work, which I now submit to the public, I have attempted to give good reasons for every view I hold. They have all been tested by me, and are therefore not only the result of prolonged thought, but of practical experience. The book has been written in the hope that the knowledge that I have gained may help others to review their present customs, to break away where necessary from the iron conventions which surround the stable, the manege and the paddock, and to survey their own ideas and methods from a new angle.

M. F. McT.