derivation of “Bearing” of bearing rein. - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 10-17-2019, 11:10 PM Thread Starter
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derivation of “Bearing” of bearing rein.

Hi,


I have interest with derivation of “Bearing” of bearing rein.
Is the “Bearing” mean a support horse head high, as ball bearing?
Or, it means force the dignified manner or conduct of horse?
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post #2 of 14 Old 10-17-2019, 11:39 PM
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For clarification, this is what you're speaking of, yes? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overcheck

It only used to be called a bearing rein. I suspect the 'bearing' aspect had something to do with improving the horse's 'bearing', as in the way he holds himself. The only definition I'm aware of is the biased one made in Black Beauty, where the horse's 'bearing' had to be dignified or proud; such was the 'fashion of the time'. We have members who do driving and racing, so their input would be valuable. =)

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post #3 of 14 Old 10-18-2019, 01:36 AM Thread Starter
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Hi, and thank you reply,

Generally, “Yes”.
Why “Generally”, check sounds American for me, and overcheck fits usually with single and tandem. I feel bearing rein was the original word, and then, became sidecheck, and overcheck.

I understand the Black Beauty, especially chapter 23, A Strike for Liberty.
But this means word of bearing rein was popular before 1877.
Horse power era in GB was ended might be 1914, with the end of horse drawn omnibus in London. But the beginning of the end of horse power era started at least 1865, Locomotive Acts (or Red Flag Acts).

So I think, bearing rein must be popular in the first half of 18th century
At that time, what image did people feel with bearing of bearing rein?
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post #4 of 14 Old 10-18-2019, 02:35 AM
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Ahh, I think that I understand. So you're asking if people at that time (Victorian era Britain, between 1837 and 1865) meant bearing as in 'ball bearing' (a mechanical feature of driving rigging), or 'bearing' as in stance (of the horse). Was this rein intended as a matter of practicality, or aesthetic? Which begs the question, is there (or was there ever) even a 'practical' use for this rein? I'd welcome the input of someone who knows driving. (Keep in mind that, even if there was a practical use of the bearing rein in Victorian times, I think it's safe to say that it was often used very impractically; as a fashion statement that often lead to the early breakdown of the horse. That's not likely the case today, or is it?)

Quote:
The term bearing rein is derived from the definition of "bearing" which means "the manner in which one bears or conducts one's self; mien; behavior; carriage." The reference suggested that high head carriage was a sign of nobility or pride. However, 19th century critics of the bearing rein applied a pejorative meaning to the word, meaning "patient endurance; suffering without complaint". Modern harness trainers prefer the more accurate terminology "overcheck" and "check rein".
As for ball bearing:

Quote:
A bearing is a machine element that constrains relative movement to the desired motion and reduces friction between moving parts.

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post #5 of 14 Old 10-18-2019, 07:55 AM
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A "bearing" rein [overcheck (between the ears over the poll) - side check (upper side of face below ears) came later]initially and most correctly had it's own bit and served three purposes. First when used correctly with it's own bit it prevented the horse from fatiguing the driver with a constant pull on the reins. Secondly in keeping the head above the shafts or pole to keep bridle from getting entangled on the shaft or pole in the event that a horse stumbled. Third, it later became the "fashion" with the excuse given by some to improve the headset. There were different types and configurations - the one that comes to mind is the Kemble Jackson Overdraw which was configured to keep the trotting stallion of the same name from dropping his head below his knees at the start of a race. Use spread to the show ring and then became accepted in "common" use.


IMO the term bearing initially referred to the use as a support and then accepted as the way a horse carried itself.
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post #6 of 14 Old 10-18-2019, 12:44 PM
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"Bearing" meant 'way of going'.... the horse probably thought it meant 'something to bear/tolerate'.... in the US, it's usually referred to as a 'check rein' or more accurately, an 'overcheck' or a 'sidecheck' depending on the type of harness.

It has a purpose, and is there for safety and is not harmful or uncomfortable when worn correctly, but not when it's taken to this degree, which is what was happening in Black Beauty... there are lots of old photos and engravings of Victorian-era horses, especially those of the upper class, with their noses pointed at the sky.
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File Type: jpg bearingrein.jpg (27.5 KB, 31 views)
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post #7 of 14 Old 10-18-2019, 04:28 PM
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I saw them in use at a Morgan show, could barely watch. I wanted to rescue those poor horses from their tail sets and weighted shoes and their "overchecks". I loathed the whole spectacle. Do not understand why people find it so grand to torment horses that way. I am sure the original idea of the word 'bearing' was referring to the "improvement" of their carriage. Ugh and ugh and ugh.

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post #8 of 14 Old 10-18-2019, 07:26 PM
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I Googled Victorian Carriage Horses and really the best photo I could find was on this page:

http://www.avictorian.com/servants_coachman.html


That was the closest I could find with the horse's noses actually up and out. I always imagined them more like color drawing of the team of bays towards the bottom of that page........with the necks up but the noses downward.......flexed at the poll. That would also make it hard for them to pull and breathe........the way it was described in Black Beauty. Maybe those horses in the black/white photo did tuck when actually in motion.

It's funny how fashion changes. Because nowadays most people like their horse's heads down........at least more "down" than "up." As someone that doesn't care about showing, I always preferred the look of a higher head carriage. I still like them to tuck their necks or collect up........but I like the whole neck to rise out of the withers higher. A lot of that is genetic. Actually, looking at my own horse in my current avatar photo, I think she looks lovely. And that is totally her natural carriage (she is a Fox Trotter). Sure, she also will relax her neck down and travel with her nose out, which is probably more "correct" for her breed. But whenever she gets "forward" her head and neck go up. I actually think that's beautiful. Some of the stock horses look so old and tired the way they want them to travel with their head level with their withers. But of course a lot of that is genetic too.

I guess how I feel is, I want the horse to travel naturally as possible, but I prefer the look of a "prouder" head carriage. I guess that's what the victorians were going for.......artificially.

I did read the Wikipedia article that said there is a practical purpose........to keep the horse from dropping it's head too low and getting caught on the shafts, etc. But basically, the victorians went well beyond that and went to the extreme. Like a lot of horse showing trends, actually. If a little is good, more must be better!

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post #9 of 14 Old 10-18-2019, 07:46 PM
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Stargazing. It destroyed the horses neck and atrophied the muscle they used to support and carry the head. A device that could be used safely and with reason was corrupted and became essentially a torture device for a fashion statement.
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post #10 of 14 Old 10-21-2019, 03:54 PM
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On overcheck or sidecheck keeps the horse's head up, and when taken to the extreme of keeping the nose out, renders the horse essentially blind so he tends to be flashier with his forelegs as he can't reach forward, and doesn't know what's under his feet.

At least the modern show horse wears his check for only a few minutes at a time, whereas a carriage horse out all day had to tolerate it all day. Rarely was it undone, even when the team was resting, if they were anywhere they could 'be seen'. A pair of horses with tight checks was fashionable, and to be seen without it was unfathomable.

This link shows a shot of a team driven by Alfred Vanderbilt-- notice the horses cannot physically get their noses down. And this was late enough in the period it was less extreme than most.
https://c8.alamy.com/comp/RHC3J6/the...ale-RHC3J6.jpg


Notice at the link above that the sidecheck also appears to be a pulley rein for increased leverage, and the blinders are curved at the front so the horses can't see anything at all when their heads are checked. A nervous-looking, blowing, prancing animal was 'en vogue' and if he was that way because he couldn't see, no one much minded.

An engraving of the rein's use:
Attached Images
File Type: jpg bearing.jpg (37.9 KB, 17 views)

Last edited by SilverMaple; 10-21-2019 at 04:00 PM.
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