Doubtless nothing equals in smartness a white buckskin waistcoat for wearing with a red coat, but it does not admit sufficient air, and one of the chief rules for health is never to perspire in anything from which the moisture of your body cannot easily escape. The colour may be left to your taste or the want of it, but the material should be of something thick and woolly. The back ought to be made of flannel, which must come down in a flap well over your loins. My idea is that a waistcoat should be made entirely of wool, and that the coat should always be worn open, only to be buttoned up when you have to stand still in a cold wind.
You will find it much pleasanter to be too warm than too cold when you go hunting, but do not make the mistake of preventing the air from reaching your body. Avoid all waterproof abominations, and if you wear plenty of flannel, you can be out all day in a soaking rain without feeling any ill effects. Change into dry clothes directly you get in the house and you will never take cold. When we are young and strong we are rather apt to laugh at rheumatism, pneumonia, or other unpleasant ailments, but the strongest are liable to them, and once they have found us out they are certain to come again. Good health is the most important factor in our daily happiness, and it is generally through some fault of our own that we suffer.
Except in relation to clothes used for riding, you may think I am going somewhat beyond the subject of this book in discussing health, but fully to enjoy horseback exercise you must be strong, and boys do not always realise the importance of keeping themselves fit.
The one essential thing to health is fresh air, both for lungs and body. You should never think of going to sleep without opening your window top and bottom. The cold bath in the morning is not always pleasant to contemplate in mid-winter, but it is a duty which should never be shirked, and the afterglow will reward you for the momentary inconvenience. In winter and summer I make a practice of drying myself after the cold bath in front of the open window. The oxygen of the air thus finds its way direct to the pores of the skin, so that you start the day refreshed and invigorated for whatever work there is to be done.
The air bath is not always possible if you live in a town, for reasons which you will understand, but I anticipate in a few years that all bathrooms will be built facing the east, and will have windows so arranged that one will be able to air the body without exposing it to the public gaze. In your clothing, the principle you should ever bear in mind is to wear material that admits the greatest amount of air, and at the same time allows the moisture from your body to escape.
We all know the old saying that " cleanliness is next to godliness," but I consider it is a part of godliness. It is a duty we owe to the Creator to keep our minds and bodies in perfect condition.
I think it was on the subject of waistcoats and the necessity of having them ventilated that I was led away to this lecture on health. It is not as important for air to reach the legs as the body, and for that reason we may wear leather breeches, whereas a leather waistcoat would be unhealthy.
In boots we must sacrifice some comfort to appearances, and the well-developed calf, on which the owner prides himself when clad in stockings on the moor or the golf links, may be a source of pain when squeezed into tight top-boots. The top should fit closely to the leg, but the big calf can never hope to look as smart as the spindle-shank.
You may, however, study your comfort in the foot of the boot, which should be roomy with a good thick sole. If the boot has a thin sole or is tight, you will suffer from cold feet. Silk stockings are an advantage in reducing the circumference of the leg, but it is best to have them made with woollen feet.
Patent leather is permissible in jack-boots, but never with tops, and for comfort I should advise you not to use it for either.
Having finished with boots we now get to the spurs. I am not an advocate for the wearing of articles which are for ornament and not for use, but top-boots without spurs have a forlorn appearance that would ruin the tout ensemble of an otherwise faultless get-up. In referring here to a spur, I do not allude to the armed heel that is meant to goad the animal to further exertions, but to the harmless imitation that is guiltless of a sharp rowell. Spurs with rowells should be on the heels of none except the most experienced horsemen, and many of these would find it better to wear them only on special occasions. I make a practice of keeping one pair with sharp rowells, but I never put them on unless the horse requires considerable persuasion, and then I expect their application for one day enough to impress the lesson on his mind. In future a kick in the ribs with the cold blunt iron is generally sufficient to remind the animal of the punishment previously applied. I should strongly advise a boy never to wear anything but dummy spurs, and when his pony requires a little stimulant, he will find the whip all that is necessary.
Whips can hardly be brought under the category of costume, but a horseman's turnout cannot be considered complete without one. Everybody should get into the habit of carrying a stick or something in the hands when riding, even though the occasion for using it is unlikely to arise.
A crop, that is, a whip with hooked handle, should always have a lash attached. The object of the hook is for opening gates, and to use one for that purpose without a lash is to run the risk of having it pulled out of your hand. Nothing looks worse than to see any one carrying a crop without a lash, and if a man comes out hunting with this portion of his whip missing, he is put down at once as a duffer.
If on your ride you are not likely to encounter a gate, then carry only a plain stick, or a whip without a hook.