|Antiques Digest||Browse Auctions||Appraisal||Home|
Selection Of The Horse
Conformation Of Horses
Disposition Of Horses
Saddlery And Equipment For Horses
Care Of Saddlery And Leather
Feeds And Bedding For Horses
Care Of Horse Feet And Shoeing
In Or Out Of The Stable
Basic Physiology Of Horses
Genetic Considerations Of Horses
( Originally Published 1954 )
There should be one good saddle for each horse in your stable and, since each animal will differ from another in the conformation of the back, it is generally better to allow each mount to wear his own saddle whenever possible. The primary concern of any saddle is that it shall fit the horse and secondarily that it shall fit and be comfortable for the rider. It is not by accident that I place these two considerations in that order. The average horse is an uncomplaining soul and we often do not realize that a saddle causes him pain until bruises and sores appear. We then have to spend considerable time in treatment and in many cases the horse will be left with scarring or tender spots that will cause recurrences almost indefinitely. The rider, on the other hand, is quick to complain of any discomfort and will not long tolerate any equipment which puts him in misery.
When a saddle is properly placed upon a horse the weight should be evenly distributed along the fleshy muscles on each side of the back bone. Since there is very little soft tissue between the skin and the bones which make up the withers and the spine, this area should be free of all pressure. Often a saddle will appear right when no weight is present, but as soon as the rider takes his seat the tree will be found so wide that the iron braces under the pommel rest upon the withers. A good test is to have a heavy rider mount and then stand in the stirrups leaning slightly for-ward. If at that time it is possible to slip two fingers between the saddle and the withers the clearance is ample. Lacking this much room, one should re-inspect the saddle for a spread tree or inadequate padding. Well bred horses usually have relatively high withers and no pains must be spared to see that this area is preserved from injury.
If we exclude the show ring saddles used on gaited horses and a few other specialized types which do not concern the average rider, I believe that all saddles can be classified into two simple groups, namely good and bad. A good saddle is one which enables the rider to readily and auomatically find himself in balance with the equilibrium of his mount, whether the animal be standing, walking, or moving at a faster gait. In order that this be accomplished it is essential that the lowest part of the seat be at or very near the center of the length of the saddle. The pommel should be neatly made, without bulk, and just high enough to clear the withers properly. The head may be either straight or slightly cut back. In the center the tree should be deep and narrow so that the rider's legs hang close to the horse's sides. From the center to the back, or cantle, there should be a gradual rise so that this part will curve upward around the buttocks of the rider and give him sup-port in case of sudden forward acceleration. The majority of better saddles have what is called a square cantle, but this is not a factor of major importance so long as the essential balance is correct. In order to make the idea of a proper seat more clear, place the saddle upon the horse and then stand alongside with the eye at the level of the back. Imagine that a marble is rolling back and forth along the midline of the saddle between pommel and cantle, and that it finally comes to rest. If that point is about the center of the distance the saddle is basically good. There is just one more important thing to remember. The only true test is to place the saddle on a living horse, preferably the one for which it is intended. Often a saddle will seem fine when placed over a rack in a saddle shop, but conditions will be quite different when it is put to actual use. As a final test mount your horse and urge him into a slow collected trot. If you find that it is easy to sit in the center of the saddle it is right, but if there is a tendency to bounce farther and farther back I would advise you to return the saddle at once and look for something better.
If I dwell upon this point at great length it is only be-cause, even in modern times, there are so many bad saddles for sale! More surprising still is the fact that many of these miserable things bear the names of some of the oldest and proudest saddlers of England. Many things are unchanged because of tradition, and so it often happens in the making of a saddle. Before the researches and experiences of the present century evolved the modern or forward seat, it had been the custom for generations of riders to place their feet forward and throw their weight upon the cantle and the region of the horse's kidneys. Happily this "chaise longue" style of riding, as one Italian writer dubbed it, is becoming a thing of the past but the saddle to match still lingers on. A bad saddle then may be described as one which is high through the throat or twist, and from that point backward becomes lower and lower until the last desperate inch or two makes a feeble attempt to stop the advance to the rear.
Quality and workmanship in any saddle will vary according to the price, and while one made of the best leathers is a joy to the owner, and will give longer service with proper care, I consider this less important than the design. A high grade saddle will have a genuine pigskin seat, pig grain flaps, and hand forged stirrup bars. The majority of the best saddles still come from England, although several American manufacturers have turned out a few very fine numbers.
The Italians were the first to produce the forward seat design which has become so popular in recent years. It is a pity that their materials and workmanship have not matched the excellence of their conception. I have owned and observed a number of these saddles and have found no end of trouble with spreading heads, breaking trees, and general disintegration of the leathers. Recent models show a much improved tree, and structural failure is less common. The first attempts of the English to copy this model were most unsatisfactory. They managed to get the flaps and knee rolls properly placed but failed utterly to understand the principles upon which the seat was constructed. In the past few years these difficulties have been corrected and nicely balanced jumping saddles are to be had in all the better shops.
There are also good saddles which have come from France, Germany, Poland, and Mexico, but they have been too few in number to be of any commercial importance. Since the War a large number of Argentine saddles have flooded the market. These can be described with one word terrible!
So long as the seat is correct the rest of the design of the saddle may be selected to meet the type of riding to be done. For general training and hacking nothing is better than the Saumur pattern which was routinely used by U. S. Cavalry officers. In this saddle the flaps are relatively straight and no knee rolls are present. It permits a deep seat and a long stirrup. Before the Army decided to unhorse its members they finally got around to designing a really good all purpose saddle which is known as the Phillips. It is sturdily made, the flaps are cut slightly forward and there is a concealed knee roll of moderate size placed slightly for-ward. This saddle has most of the advantages of the Saumur and in addition gives a more secure grip for cross country riding and jumping moderate obstacles. A commercial version with the same general idea is commonly known as the forward seat hunting saddle. Each manufacturer will have his own models of these general types and they will carry such names as hacking saddles, polo saddles, hunting saddles, etc.
The last of the good saddles is the true forward seat model which is characterized by a marked forward cut of the flaps and a good sized concealed roll which is placed above and below the knee. One of the best of these is known as the Argo model, after its designer, an officer of the U. S. Army Horse Show Team. I admit to a very strong preference toward this design, particularly if any jumping is to be done either across country or in the show ring. A few years ago they were a curiosity and evoked the sneers of the old timers, but at the biggest shows at the present time it is common to find them used by over two-thirds of all the riders of hunters and jumpers.
There are a few other types which may be mentioned in passing. One is the semi-military which is characterized by long panels which protrude like pontoons behind the cantle. In theory they distribute the weight over a larger surface, but for average riding they are heavy, clumsy, and lacking in flexibility. They are usually to be found as second-hand surplus stock bought from various army cast-offs. Every second-hand store or junk shop offers a few army trooper's saddles which are known as the McClellan. Many are surplus from World War I. These sadistic contrivances were the result of the philosophy which declared that the back of a horse was Government property and should be protected at all cost while the posterior of the rider was his personal affair and the hell with it. With six folds of a G. I. Blanket under one, a horse was practically unharmed; but having spent a summer riding one in a military academy troop I am quite willing to see them all destroyed. At times it may be both economical and wise o purchase a used saddle. If it is structurally sound and the leather well preserved it will save both the pocketbook and the period of breaking in. Be sure that the tree is not spread or cracked and that the billets and webbing are sound. It is best to have it reconditioned by a reputable saddle maker; the cost will be small compared with the safety and satisfaction.
A felt or sheepskin saddle pad should be used routinely, even though they are condemned as "unworkmanlike" in the hunting field or the show ring. Not only do they protect the horse's back but they protect the saddle from sweat and reduce the cleaning problem by half. A three fold baghide leather girth is customarily used and is recommended as being strong, neat, and easily kept in order. They are usually made three or three and a half inches wide and in varying lengths to suit the size of the horse. For horses who chafe easily at the elbow, it is well to try one of the special designs, such as the Balding which by crossing three strips obtains a very narrow section at this region. For horses who chafe, or who are so conformed that a saddle tends to slip back, a mohair string girth may be used. They are not very neat but they may be helpful, and they are particularly useful in extended wet weather. All stitching on girths should be carefully inspected regularly and frequently, and re-placed not when it has become weak, but before it might become unsound. Many an accident has been avoided by such attention to apparently trivial details.
Stirrup irons should be large, heavy and strong. Many riders of jumpers are now using a pattern which has a tread sloping to the rear and higher at the outside. These tend to keep the heel low and the lea pressed close to the horse's side. I have found them very satisfactory for jumping, but for basic training of both horse and rider the standard design is unsurpassed. Stirrup leathers should be of the finest leather obtainable, heavy, well oiled, and watched for cracks, tears, and worn stitches. They should be replaced at the slightest indication of weakness. On all good saddles there is a safety catch at the rear of the stirrup bar. I make it a practice to open this the first time I ride a new saddle and never close it again. If you kick off a stirrup because this catch is open it is only an indication that your foot was in the wrong position and your riding needs a bit of correction. In the event of a fall and a foot being caught in the iron, the open catch may save you from being dragged dangerously.
Before going into the subject of bridles it might be well to devote a moment to leathers in general and bridle leathers in particular, since it is this latter type which is used in making most of the equipment used by the horse-man. For reasons that are hard to understand it would seem that England has a monopoly upon the manufacture of the superior varieties. Since World War II the quality of the American counterpart has gradually improved, but the hide with the little stamp "made in England" still sets the standard by which the rest may be judged. I have asked many saddle makers the reason for this situation and have received varying answers. Perhaps the best reply was to the effect that we insist upon mass production in this country, while the British are willing to devote time and attention to the individual problems of each hide.
A good leather has a smooth and uniform appearance. The grain is clear and bright without having a shiny or artificial gloss. When it is bent sharply toward the grain side the surface adheres closely and evenly and does not seem to pile up in high furrows as does the leather taken from the poorer parts of the hide. The under surface is smooth, even, and free of loose fibers that give a suede like appearance. The next thing to be noted is the feel of the piece. A good leather will feel very firm to the touch and will have a solid body. It should quickly take its original shape when released from a twist or bend. The feeling offirmness is not to be confused with stiffness, a characteristic of the very worst leathers. If you are inexperienced in judgment of leathers ask a saddler to show you some of the various qualities. A little study of this subject will pay many times in economy and satisfaction.
Regardless of the various names used to designate quality, bridles and other miscellaneous tack can be roughly grouped into four classes, depending upon the material and workmanship. First we find the top grade or "Super Deluxe." The leather is of the choicest cuts of the best hides, and it has carefully hand-rubbed edges throughout. The sewing is sturdy and meticulous, and the hardware heavy and good. This class is handled by the best stores and is somewhat of a luxury. It can be eliminated in the interest of economy without sacrifice of essential worth.
The second class can be called "first grade leather," " very fine" or a dozen other similar names. In this group the leather is usually excellent in both appearance and durability, and the only thing lacking is some of the costly hand finishing of the most expensive items. It is in this quality that true economy lies. You will never have to be ashamed of your tack and it will outwear the cheaper grades in a way that will make your annual outlay the lowest possible. I have several bridles of this type which are still sound and useful after ten years of hard service in all kinds of weather from driving winter rains to July polo games.
The third kind is obviously made to supply those who demand a smaller initial outlay, or who place their saddlery into a service where many users and insufficient care are unavoidable. Riding academies often find this an advantage, but the individual owner will do himself a service by holding to a more exacting standard. Lastly we have the "bargain counter junk" with its stiff, soggy domestic leather, crude plated hardware and shaggy edges. Both its price and its appearance scream its inferiority. Do not be lured into wasting good money for such trash.
In the construction of bridles we find three basic patterns. A few have reins which buckle in, as do the bits. These are ugly, bulky and, worse still, a hopeless chore to keep clean and neat. They are usually found only in cheaper grades or reclaimed military equipment. The majority of bridles on the market are finished with the so called "hook-in stud" for both reins and bits. These have all the advantages of buckles and are far neater in appearance. Dirt and grease will fill in around the attachments, but they can be cleaned with effort. For the utmost in satisfaction I advise that the reins and bits be stitched in permanently. Pick a good bridle and a bit to suit your needs and have your saddler finish them properly. In theory one may wish to keep switching bits in and out of any given bridle, but practically it just doesn't work out that way. It is a good idea to have one old hook-in bridle for such experiments, but for the most part one should do less messing with various bittings and concentrate upon the skill to use any simple pattern which meets requirements. A sewn-in bit has many advantages. It is the mark of the competent workman and is the only type acceptable in the hunting field or show ring. My reason for favoring it, however, is that it is so much easier to keep clean.
Reins should be of good width. It is well for a woman with small hands to choose a medium size, but everyone should avoid the very narrow reins used for gaited horses in the show ring. They cut the hands and are hard to handle when wet. The reins of a snaffle should be quite wide and they may be plain, laced, or braided. The two latter give a much firmer grip, and fatigue is lessened since they do not require so much finger pressure. I prefer the laced type since the braided tend to become stretched and stringy with use. Always wear gloves with laced reins or you may skin your hands badly if a horse pulls them through your fingers. While on the subject of gloves I would suggest that you wear them whenever possible when riding, grooming, or doing stable chores. Their use will soon become automatic and make it possible for a man or woman to do all the menial tasks of the stable without having scarred, stained, and unsightly hands. This is particularly important to all men who have executive or professional duties. We all admire the woman who is willing to swing a pitchfork so that she may enjoy the company of a good horse, but we admire her even more if her hands do not give away the secret at a dinner party.
There is one more type of bridle which will be of great use and should be in every owner's stable. It is the simple watering bridle. This useful device consists of a pair of reins and a pair of snaps fastened to an old bit. In the case of a pelham bit two pairs of reins and a curb chain are required. The reins may be stout, well oiled leather or heavy canvas webbing. BV fastening the two snaps to the halter we have a bridle that will serve in emergencies and it will do for hacking on those rainy and muddy days which are so hard on our better bridles and upon the temper of the unfortunate soul who must do his own leather.
While equitation is not the province of this book we can hardly avoid consideration for the subject when we discuss bits. I think that it may be taken as a general rule that the good horseman uses a limited number of the simpler bits, while the incompetent amass a pile of eccentric and brutal contraptions. I believe that McTaggart, the English writer, declared that the key to the mouth of a horse was to be found at the opposite end of the reins. I have a saddlery catalogue which shows pictures of one hundred and five different bits, each of which is to be had in different sizes! And this does not include any of the Western types at all.
Every horse who has not been spoiled should be ridden in a plain snaffle. for much of his training. A jumper or hunter will be bolder for it, particularly if his rider lacks great skill in giving him his head. The snaffle should have large flat rings so that it cannot be pulled through the mouth. I much prefer the so called barrel type of snaffle since it is much less apt to pinch the horse's lip and it does not require leathers at the sides for protection. The body of the bit should be of large diameter to avoid cutting the sensitive bars of the mouth. If a little more severity is required one may substitute the twisted mouthpiece, but it too should be of large diameter. Generally speaking I do not approve of the thin, twisted wire bits, since a little unintended roughness may result in injury. It is far better to use some type of curb if a horse cannot be controlled.
In the second group we find the assorted pelhams, bits with a port in the mouthpiece, a bar at the side, and two sets of reins. The upper reins act much as a snaffle while the lower act by leverage and a curb chain. Again we follow the principle of the mildest bit that will do the job and therefore stress a large diameter of mouthpiece and a low or half moon port. The cheeks should be of medium length or even short. Some pelhams have a mouthpiece covered with soft rubber or leather, a very good idea.
In advanced schooling the double bridle or bit and bridoon is the choice. It is capable of more diversified effects and need not be severe. in competent hands. With keen horses this extra check may be a real safety factor when galloping in company. One of the favorites in the hunting field is the Tom Thumb version which has very short and loose cheeks, allowing the horse to mouth the center of the bit without putting tension on the reins.
If a horse, due to a ruined mouth, continues to pull or run through all of the bits mentioned, I offer one final suggestion. I have said that trick and severe bits are to be condemned but, while this one is unusual, I do not think that it may be so classified. The S-M pelham, manufactured by Stalker, is based upon a rational consideration of why a horse pulls. When a steady and hard pull is exerted upon a thin mouthpiece the result is a cutting of circulation and an anesthesia of the bars of the mouth. The longer the cheeks of the bit and the tighter the curb chain, the greater the leverage of the compressing member. This all leads to a vicious cycle which starts with a keen horse pulling, more cutting of circulation, and final runaway. To change all this the S-M substitutes a wide flat bar for the conventional mouthpiece. It is over an inch wide and has a very slight port. The cheeks are so swiveled that the bar lies flat, even when the curb is tightened. I have seen horses go kindly in this bit when all severer forms failed. If leathers are placed at the sides to avoid a pinch of the lip, and the curb chain covered with rubber tubing or leather, the chance of hurting the horse is reduced to the minimum. I urge you to try this bit if you are having trouble with a spoiled or injured mouth.
Saddles and Bridles for ponies. The simplest bridle is the best for a pony since children are inclined to be careless with tack in general and there is no point in spending a lot of money unless they have advanced to the point of going into the show ring. I would start with a snaffle bridle but since many ponies are inclined to be a little hard mouthed it may be necessary to have additional restraint. In this case a short shanked curb bit similar to those found on Western bridles may be used. It should have a leather strap for the curb rather than a chain. Double reins are not advisable for the beginner. For more advanced riders and the show ring all the leading saddlery houses make hunting type bridles identical to those for full grown horses.
With the present popularity of Western riding and the cowboys of radio and television fame, many of our young ones express a desire for this type of equipment. They may be more secure in a Western type saddle but I feel that they are much slower to learn true balance and natural contact with their mount. If a Western saddle is selected it should have an extremely low horn or preferably none at all. The advantage of being able to hang on to the horn is offset by the hazard of being thrown against it. I would be inclined to saw off the horn over the protests of the younger generation. They will complain then that they have no place to tie the rope but that is exactly the objective I wish to attain. The handling of a rope is tricky business and should be left to the expert. There have been serious and fatal accidents when children have let themselves and their frightened horse get tangled in the loops. In line with this word of caution I would suggest that no child should ever be permitted to lead the family dog while mounted. This incidentally applies to the adult. A first class tangle can result when a puppy runs under a horse's legs and catches the rope between them.
The best and cheapest saddle for the beginner is a simple one made of felt. It has no tree and thus allows close con-tact with the movements of the pony. It has a metal strap to which the stirrup bars are attached, and pieces of leather to protect the points of greatest wear. A canvas girth is attached and it is so light that a child can put it on with no difficulty at all. This type costs less than half as much as a leather saddle and will do just as well. Later on a true pony saddle similar to a hunting saddle may be supplied. One must be particularly careful not to use a saddle designed primarily for horses even though it may be small. The saddle for a horse has a narrow tree in order to keep from pressing on the withers. When this is placed on the round backed pony the points of the tree will tend to press in and may cause sore spots.
BREASTPLATES AND MARTINGALES
Martingales come in three basic types. The simple standing or polo martingale consists of a long strap with a loop at the upper end to be attached to the caveson of the bridle and a larger loop at the other which is held in place by the saddle girth. Adjustment of length is made by a buckle somewhere near the middle. It is held in place by a narrow strap which goes around the horse's neck in front of the withers. Its purpose, of course, is to prevent the horse from raising his nose above a given height. In polo this is practically an essential for otherwise a rider leaning forward may receive a nasty blow if his mount suddenly throws up his head for any reason. In the early training of a colt it may be a help in correcting the habit of avoiding the bit by raising the head, but as soon as the animal is well along in training I feel it best to discard this additional restraint. A properly trained hunter or hack needs no such device unless he is worried and hurt by heavy and clumsy hands. If the martingale is long it does little good, and if short it may restrain the full use of the head and' neck in an emergency or fall when a jumper needs every trick to save himself.
The running martingale is an attachment to a breastplate which in itself has several other functions. The latter effectively prevents a slipping of the saddle in a horse of tucked-up conformation, and even a good barreled mount may be more loosely girthed if it is used. Several men of extensive hunting experience feel that a horse will stand a hard and long run better if the girth is not so tight that it limits his breathing. The breastplate may also be a help to the rider by giving him something to hold himself secure in case of bucking, shying, or a sudden steep climb. To those who object to such "pulling leather" I offer the answer that it is far to be preferred to using the horse's mouth for the same purpose. But to return to the running martingale which is simply two straps reaching forward from the breast-plate and terminating in rings through which the reins are passed. Some additional control is obtained by this method at the expense of the loss of accurate feel of the mouth. I have seen a few outstanding foreign military riders use them to advantage in the show ring, but the average rider is apt to have trouble because the problem of restraining impulsion and holding the head down are inseparably tied up in one corrective pull of the reins. Aside from these less vital considerations I, for one, do not care to be aboard any horse which must be forcefully required to look at an approaching obstacle. The skilled hunter or jumper wants o lower his head and size up his problem in order to clear the jump with safety. If he lacks the training or intelligence to do it for himself he is a candidate for a smashing fall if his rider fails in a perfect job of doing his worrying for him. There was a time when martingales were routine in the hunting field or show ring, but as our skill and knowledge increase we see more and more going freely and care-fully without them. In short, a martingale of any type is an attempt to overcome a deficiency of either training or riding. I barely mention the third martingale, the so called Irish type. This is a single strap between the reins and serves only to keep the reins from being tossed over the head of a restless horse. It certainly can do no harm, but I am uncertain as to its benefits in the average case.
Each horse should have two, one of heavy oiled leather for regular wear around the stable, and a second of the dress type for shows and other gatherings when he is to appear at his best. The best show halters are made of fine bridle leather and have brass hardware. For horses who tend to be pullers when tied, I have devised a safe and sturdy rigging which is particularly helpful in shipping. It will be described elsewhere.
Halter ropes are one of those items which disappear with annoying regularity. Keep a good supply on hand and be sure that the snaps are the strongest available. A horse with the habit of pulling back will break one cast iron snap after another. For leading or loading, a leather lead shank with a chain is much to be preferred. By placing the chain over the nose or under the chin many refractory animals will be readily controlled. Following a minor injury in shipping one of my horses refused to load unless the chain was in place. Just its presence convinced him that resistance would be painful and he would walk into the trailer without the slightest pressure.
The following items are essential for the grooming kit.
1. A soft bristled body brush of good quality. The back may be either leather or wood, the latter usually having longer bristles. The large flat ones are nicer for finishing the large surfaces, while the wooden seem better for legs and angular spots. By all means acquire both types when funds permit.
2. A stiff bristle wooden handle brush for manes and tails, and to remove caked mild from the heavy coat of winter.
3. A rubber curry comb. Never use a metal curry comb on a thin skinned and well bred horse. If one is kept its major use is that of cleaning brushes.
4. A metal or horn mane comb. Be careful how you use this item. The hunter traditionally has a stripped and shortened mane, and since keeping it this way requires regular pulling, no harm is done by a little extra removal by a comb. If, however, a long mane is desired do not exert much pull or you will soon find large mats of hair on the floor. The same is true of tails, particularly if they are wet, muddy or have been uncombed for some time. This advice is hardly necessary to any woman, but the short haired male will have to remember to control his power in this regard.
5. A large body sponge, preferably a real sea sponge, and several smaller ones for use around eyes, legs and dock. It is obvious that only a clean one should be used around the eyes and nostrils.
6. A scraper to remove excess sweat or to remove water after sponging. There are curved, single handed types of metal or wood, and large brass strips which are leather handled and used with two hands. The choice is one of personal convenience.
7. A few rub rags. The traditional ones are made of linen, or of heavy linen salt sacking. They are both expensive and hard to obtain at the present time. I have found that small, thick turkish towels do just as well and the saving is considerable. Buy a half a dozen matched ones in some bright color or pattern. They have a habit of taking wings as fast as do riding crops or halter ropes. A readily recognizable style will help you keep track of them when a group of horses are stabled together.
8. A good sharp pointed and solid handled hoof pick. Most of those found in stores are dull or clumsy. If you can-not find what you want ask your blacksmith to make one the next time he drops around for shoeing.
In the stable you will require the following:
1. A water bucket for each horse.
2. A heavy feed bucket for each horse. These can be re-
moved for cleaning and are better than built in feed bowls.
3. A six tine fork for cleaning stalls-do not use this
for hay and thus carry dirt and infection into the feed.
4. A three tine hay fork for long and solid packed hay.
5. A four or five tine fork for short cut hay or alfalfa.
6. A quart and a gallon feed measure.
7. A heavy wire cutters; the seven inch size is the easiest on the hands. Keep it for stable use only or it will be missing when you need it to open hay in a hurry. Baling wire can be cut by an ax, or by twisting, but a good cutter saves time and trouble.
8. Clippers. A good electric clippers is essential if horses must be clipped during the winter. For trimming, a large hand clippers will be satisfactory if the more expensive type is not required.
9. A large blunt tipped scissors.
10. A leather punch comes in very handy from time to time.
11. Leg bandages. These come in sets of four and may be either tubular knitted cotton or wool flannel. The cotton is best for general use, particularly for wet packs, but the wool makes a fine soft support for long trips or continued bandaging.
12. Hoof dressing. During very dry weather, or when the oil is removed from the hoof by excessive immersion in water, it may be necessary to replace it by external means. There are several good preparations available commercially, but nothing is better than a mixture of equal parts of pine tar, lanolin, and neat's foot oil. Apply it well around the coronary band rather than on the sole where it is soon lost.
13. A breaking caveson, long line and long whip. The method of using these will be found in books on training. They are invaluable for exercising a horse when riding is impractical and in training both for discipline and for jumping. The U. S. Army has disposed of a large surplus of breaking cavesons and they are available in many larger stores. The model is excellent and the price makes them a bargain.
14. Blankets are needed in most parts of this country. The outline given here is for an average climate which has its share of rain, snow, and cold weather. Residents of California, and other favored lands are invited to skip this part of the discussion.
One of the problems of horse keeping is the horse's tendency to develop a long and heavy coat during the winter months. The extent of this growth will depend upon both breeding and previous conditions of winter environment.
The stimulus to increased coat is initiated by the first late summer or early fall nights, and it is well to blanket and put animals in the barn as soon as it becomes cool. A horse with a heavy coat is almost impossible o groom, and even moderate riding brings on sweating which leaves the coat wet for hours and makes any extended galloping a double effort. If you fail in all your efforts to prevent excessive growth, an overall clipping is the best answer from both the stand-point of the horse's comfort and the master's labor. Leave a patch under the saddle to avoid skin irritation. In regions where horses work through brush and briars, the legs are also left unclipped as protection, but this is not desirable if an animal works entirely in open country or upon paths and roads.
In mild weather a light cotton sheet will suffice, but for colder weather a heavy woven blanket or one with a wool lining is needed. Of all the brands upon the market I have found none quite so durable and satisfactory as the "Baker Blanket." The initial cost is greater, but ten years of service is not uncommon if they are cleaned and stored each season. Have your saddler remove the leather straps before cleaning or they will be badly damaged in the process. If a horse is clipped be sure to add extra warmth for a few days by using a heavy blanket or several of the lighter ones.
In an effort to keep coats light and avoid having to re-move caked mud from the entire horse every day, I have evolved the system of using heavy canvas waterproof blankets during the day when the horses are in pasture or paddock. If the blankets are well fitted and firmly strapped they will stay in place even after rolling. As a result my horses are warm and dry without being kept indoors. At night these are removed and the regular indoor blanket substituted.
A dress wool blanket, with matching hood and body roller, is ideal if much showing and shipping is done, but this expensive item can be replaced by the economical all-purpose wool cooler. This latter is a large rectangle of woolen material with a brow strap and several pairs of tie strings. It serves not only for shipping but as a wrap for a hot horse after a hard ride, or to give warmth and help dry the coat after exposure in the rain. Never leave a horse loose and unattended with a cooler in place. He will probably roll and the result will be a very dirty cooler, and perhaps one ripped beyond recognition. If nothing better is available a serviceable cooler can be made from parts of two second-hand or discarded blankets from the household.
THE MEDICINE CABINET
The provisions for first aid and veterinary care will depend largely upon the skill and experience of the owner and the availability of professional services. The following are basic and essential.
1. A large blunt ended veterinary type rectal thermometer. These have an eyelet at the top. Before insertion a piece of string several feet long should be looped through the opening. This will allow deep insertion without any danger of loss. The string may be allowed to hang down or be held over the back. Removal is simple and safely accomplished by traction on the loop. Be sure that the thermometer is shaken down and read before each use. Insertion is made easier by coating the tip with light grease, glycerin, or soap. Allow five minutes for an accurate reading. The horse's normal temperature is slightly higher than that of the human, and will average from 99.5 degrees to 101 degrees F. One hundred and four indicates a moderately high fever, while 106 or over is very high and usually denotes a serious illness which demands immediate and skillful treatment.
2. A roll of sterile cotton, several gauze bandages of assorted widths, and a dozen sturdy safety pins of assorted sizes. For most leg bandages the tubular cotton sets previously mentioned serve admirably.
3. A bottle of antiseptic of the tincture type. Among the better ones are Merthiolate (Lilly), Metaphen (Abbott), and Mercresin (Upjohn). These take the place of tincture of iodine in most instances and they are not only safer but also much less likely to burn or blister when covered by a bandage.
4. A can of an antiseptic dusting powder to use on cuts and abrasions which are left open. This may be B. F. I. (Sharp and Dohme) or one of the sulfa or sulfa and zinc peroxide mixtures.
5. Recently very gratifying results have been obtained by the local application of solution or ointments containing penicillin, thyrotricin, or bacitracin, or other antibiotics. Since these usually do not retain potency indefinitely they had best be ordered fresh when and if advised by the veterinarian.
6. A jar of lanolin or purified wool fat to be used as a healing salve for chafed spots, cracked hooves, and uninfected scaly or crusted areas. Keep well closed and discard if rancid or mouldy.
7. A bottle of raw linseed oil to be used in the grain mixture for the treatment of mild constipation.
8. Epsom salts will serve two purposes, internally as a laxative and externally as a wet dressing for sprained and filled legs.
9. In treating acute swelling and heat in the legs nothing serves much better than continued application of cold wet packs. This may be augmented by epsom salts, or the white lotion tablets used by the Army. I learned by experience that "white lotion" used too freely will cause reaction and even blistering.
10. An excellent mild leg brace and rubbing liniment can be readily and inexpensively made by this formula, given me by a member of the U. S. Army Olympic Team.
Rubbing Alcohol One quart,Witch Hazel One quart, Tincture of Arnica, Two ounces Use undiluted.
11. After the acute state of a bruise, sprain, or similar in-jury has subsided, a mild form of counter irritation is indicated. There are dozens on the market, each of which promises to do more than any other. It is well to remember that these have their limitations and miracles should not be expected.
Few are any better than the following which can be prepared by the local pharmacy:
Oil of Wormwood 4cc
Oil of Sassafras lcc
Acetone q.s. 50cc
12. For the treatment of a small localized bony or cartilaginous enlargement I have found the following surprisingly helpful, especially for splints. For this prescription I am again indebted to a member of the U. S. Army Horse Show Team.
Tincture of Iodine (U. S. P., old 7% Formula) 30. cc
Powdered bichloride of Mercury 1 gram Allow to stand for twenty-four hours after compounding. This is a strong poison and should be marked and handled accordingly. Brush the area lightly with the solution about three times a week until scurfing appears, then allow time for resolution and repeat the course of treatment several times.
13. An excellent counter irritant ointment for sore muscles is sold under the proprietary name of Imadyl (Hoffman-LaRoche). It is intended for the treatment of rheumatic and arthritic conditions in the human, but I have found it equally helpful for animals. It contains histamine, a dilator of blood vessels, as well as the time honored ingredients such as oil of wintergreen. Its action is mild and soothing. Do not be alarmed if some swelling appears as the result of the increased circulation.
14. Remember that the spores of tetanus are universally present wherever horses are found. All deep puncture wounds are particularly dangerous. Tetanus antitoxin is safe and an efficient protective if given before the disease sets in. Unless you are an old hand with the syringe and needle do not try to administer it yourself.
Never forget that home treatment of the horse is on the same level as amateur self-doctoring in the human, and that nothing can replace the skill and equipment of your veterinarian. We cannot run to the phone for every minor sprain or cut but the health of your mount, as well as the saving of time and money, will depend on the help of the expert at the right time.