How to Care for your Horse circa 1900
170. Best Time For Exercise
Though it is usual to take horses out in the early morning on account of the time and trouble thereby saved, yet the really best time for exercise is after breakfast.
The servant also has more time to clean out the stable properly in the morning, and the master can better ensure a proper length of exercise.
In the morning the servant is often late in starting and in a hurry to get back to his breakfast. Hence the quantum of exercise is cut short. Again, the climate in winter time is less bleak and cold at a later hour, and the servant, having had his breakfast, can at once on his return get to work at his horse. The animal too has then had his morning feed and water some two hours or more, and is therefore more fit for fast exercise, a point of some importance in the preparation of a hunter in the autumn.
Whilst the horses are at exercise, the doors and windows of the stable should be thrown wide open, so that during the time the interior of the building may get the advantage of a thorough change of air.
171. Of Drying Horses, When Very Hot Or Wet
It is always an object of much importance to get a horse, which returns very hot or very wet after hunting or other severe exercise, dried and cleaned as soon as possible. Two or three men therefore should be set to work at once on him. When the sweat is running off profusely a scraper will answer better than a wisp or cloth.
178. Manes and Tails
Manes and tails should be brushed, not combed. A comb pulls out the hairs, and will soon make a mane or tail thin. A switched tail may always be produced by combing it at the end.
Almost any mane may be made to lie on the side desired by frequently damping and brushing it or if need be, by plaiting it with lead. Civilians prefer the mane being laid to the off side. With troop horses it is always laid to the near side, with the view of enabling the dragoon to take a lock of it in his hand before mounting.
The practice of mounting with a lock of the mane in the bridle hand is good, because it lessens the chance of giving the horse a chuck in the mouth from the bit. Most horses, which are unsteady on being mounted, have become so from having received such chucks. The saddle also is less likely to shift from its proper position, when the rider is assisted in mounting by having hold of the mane. (1)
Care of Horses
That proper care and hygienic conditions conduce to the welfare and longevity of horses is provided by the carefully-preserved statistics of the army horses, and also of the great studs kept by omnibus and other trading companies who employ large numbers of animals.
Stables should be lofty and well ventilated, but free from draught. Ventilation, properly carried out, ought to ensure these conditions. Bad air, as that on shipboard, irritates the mucous membranes and produces catarrh; the disease was properly named 'cold' of a cold. The vitiated atmosphere of a town stable of the old types, however, a much more frequent source of catarrh than exposure to inclement weather. Young horses coming up to London in the pink of health are just the ones to be affected by the foul air, and many losses are sustained by owners of animals which fail to become acclimatised.
Horses at work are estimated to consume about 16,000 cubic feet of air per hour. The amount of cubic space in a stable is not, however, an absolute measure of its air capacity, as, in two stables of exactly the same size, the exhausted air may pass out rapidly in one and pure air be as freely drawn in, while in the other the arrangements may be such as to prevent free circulation. The heavier gases are the slower to diffuse themselves; but ammonia, which is such a light gas and so large a product of the horse stable, quickly vitiates the atmosphere unless the ventilation is on sound principles.
Drainage of No Less Importance
No drain inside a stable should be covered. The master can then see at a glance if the gutters have been cleansed and no stale dung and urine can accumulate without the attendant's knowledge. The presence of fresh droppings or of recently passed urine is no detriment to the health of man or beast, but the decomposition that follows in blocked-up pipes or under iron plates not thoroughly washed every day in most injurious.
The amount of water required by a horse differs greatly according to his work, his food, and the temperature of the air. An average allowance, according to the best army observers, is six gallons per day. The allowance on board ship is only five, but it is found quite sufficient when there is no exercise taken.
When to water. Before hygiene was understood it was the almost universal custom to withhold water from a horse when he came in hot or was on a journey. It was thought to produce colic, and in some instances would do so, when very cold water was given in reckless quantity to a horse suffering with thirst. Again, we would refer to the cavalry and other army horses as examples of good management, and say that, since horses have been watered before feeding, the number of gripe cases has diminished by more than half.
The physiological explanation is, that the water passes in two or three minutes into the large bowels, and is absorbed into the circulation before the food given a few minutes later has the opportunity of becoming saturated and afterwards swelling up or fermenting. Water given on the top of a hastily swallowed feed of corn is liable to check digestion, and swell up the corn to such an extent as to cause rupture of the organ. Soft water is preferable for many reasons, not the least of which is the tendency of hard water to produce gripes, and to form calculus or stone in the bowels and bladder. The supply of soft water is, unfortunately, seldom pure.
On farms the pond receives the surface drainage of any land higher up than itself, or from the yard itself, and the water becomes the colour of coffee. It must, however, be said that such discoloured water is often preferred by horses, and particularly by cattle, and the proofs of its bad effects are wanting.
It is not, perhaps, generally known that, until the present century, barley was the grain on which horses were usually fed. It is still sometimes given to them, but the superiority of oats is unquestionable. Until the advent of the chaff-cutter, corn was given whole or, at best, bruised. Whole oats, given without chaff, are apt to pass through the body without being acted on by the digestion, and the system of adding chaff to the feed has the effect of making the animal grind his food better. He cannot swallow a lump of dry hay of chaff; it has to be insalivated first.
Digestion in the horse cannot be complete without some amount of distension. Although a single-stomached animal and that stomach a small one, he must have bulk; nutrition is not everything. All the elements may be found in neat corn to sustain him, but he will thrive better on a less quantity with some long stuff added. The quantity of oats necessary for the maintenance of a horse in health will depend largely upon the nature of his work. Racehorses are induced to eat all the good oats they can, but the conditions of training do not apply to general feeding. Ten to 12 lbs. is a fair allowance for a saddle horse or hackney, 12 to 14 for a carthorse, and, if beans or peas are given, a corresponding amount of oats should be deducted. The army ration is 10 lbs. the government weight required for oats is 36 lbs. per bushel.
Horses doing fast work are given a large proportion of corn and but little hay; hence the racer eats the least hay, and the farm and heavy draught animal the most. For the light breeds, about 12 lbs. a day is enough, including that which is cut up into chaff. Double that quantity is not too much for a wagon horse.
This corn is largely used as being cheap and sustaining, but it has nothing like the feed value of a corresponding weight of oats. Too much maize is productive of colic and conduces to swollen legs.
Beans and Peas
These highly stimulating foods are only proper for horses called upon for very severe work, and no large quantity should at any time be given, 1 to 2 lbs. per day.
(Note from editor - I have always understood the saying 'full of beans' to refer to carthorses fed too many beans; because when they came out of the stables in the mornings they were a little too frisky!)
As a horse food, wheat is not suitable. It is a cause of indigestion and generally believed to bring on fever in the feet.
The straw of wheat or oats may be given to horses in moderate quantity without injury, as chaff, or in place of hay.
If a dry diet is given, with no green meat, it is necessary to let horses have a bran, or bran and linseed, mash at least once a week: but horses differ very much in respect to the effects of dry feeding; some get dangerously constipated without frequent mashing, whilst others, of excitable temperament, need peas and other things to hold them together.
Times of feeding
The horse's stomach being small in proportion to his size, it is desirable that he should be fed often, say every four hours, or three times a day, and the bulk of his hay should be given at night. (2)
(1) Horses and Stables by Lieut. General Sir F Fitzwygram, BART
Published by Longmans, Green and Co. 39 Paternoster Row, London, New York and Bombay 1901.
(2) Animals' Treatment First Aid. The Elliman E.F.A. Book. Horses/Dogs/Birds/Cattle.
Sixth Edition, completing 370,000 Copies. Published by Elliman, Sons & Co., Slough, England. This book has no printing date but is signed by my Great Grandfather E. Packard 1894.