Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Traveling by Horse in 17th Century New England
Ah, there ye are dear readers. I am blessed to see you visit my Rhode Island farm. God has been very gracious to me. I built it in 1654, nigh ten years ago.
Let me set my horse’s furniture, what ye call a saddle, on this fence rail. Now I can properly introduce myself to you. My name is Nathaniel Griffith.
My good wife and I have just returned from a trip to Lynn in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, nigh a five day ride home, including a ferry ride across the bay.
What is that, ye say? Why so long? Betwixt a narrow trail and many down trees from a storm a fortnight ago, the ride took much longer than anticipated. My wife, she’s a goodly woman and a fine rider, but her stirrup stockings require a broader path than what a single horse needs.
What are stirrup stockings, ye ask? Well, they be similar to my splatterdashes…but I see I have lost you there. These are loose thigh-high leggings to keep my clothes clean. Now stirrup stockings, they be as wide as the length of a large man’s arm. Yea, I agree. They are not very attractive. However, modesty must prevail and these stirrup stockings allow my good wife to ride astride without revealing more than a modest woman should.
Now about the distance. I have good steeds. At an easy trot, they can go six miles in an hour over a clear trail and in fine weather. The day my father took ill, I rode more than sixty miles to fetch Dr. Clarke. Verily, on a journey of several days I desire not to push my animals more than five and twenty miles with a rest every two or three hours. With a carriage, as my father had when we lived in Wales, we would need to travel even slower. However, here in New England we have not the roads for such vehicles.
Now Goodman Blythe and Goodman Coddington, they traveled last summer to Boston. They had but one horse between them. Had they asked, they could have used my black gelding, but that is another story. To spare the horse, they used the ride-and-tie method.
What is that, you ask? An effective method, some say, to spare horse and man. Goodman Blythe rode the first ten miles, and then he’d tie the horse to a tree. Goodman Coddington would walk that distance and by the time he’d reach the horse, the animal would be well rested and ready to go the next distance. Coddington would ride at a trot, passing Goodman Blythe, who was on foot. They’d alternate back and forth like this until they reached Boston.
In my opinion, such a method is an inconvenient form of traveling, and Goodman Holmes agrees. Of course, Goodman Holmes feels one is better just to walk and not fuss over a horse that needs resting. Hitherto, the man owns not a horse and appears to have a fierce dislike for them. That, I believe, is the reasoning behind his opinion.
Now if you will excuse me, I must rub down my animals and turn them loose. ‘Twas a pleasure to meet you, and I wish you Godspeed until we meet again.