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stallions, diseases, folk cures, parasites, horse care, diet, Pennsylvania Dutch dialect


A handwritten manuscript entitled, "The Stallion - "Der heugscht"- Diseases and Remedies", compiled by Victor C. Dieffenbach, dated July 1, 1952. Within, Dieffenbach details a number of ailments that plague horses and describes the various folk cures and remedies needed to alleviate them.

Corresponds to:

Packet 577 a-200-92 to 577 a-200-127



2. The Stallion - “Der heugscht”.

(o.) Diseases and Remedies.

The diseases of the horse are as varied as are those of his master. They are of two kinds; those resulting from neglect and poor treatment, and the others are the result from disorders of the internal organs.

1. Scratches can be caused by just simply failing to keep the horses heels clean and dry. Standing in a filthy stable, on top of a pile of manure that is hot and steaming, and then coming into the stable with mud and slush left on the legs to dry overnight, without being cleaned, will produce this unpleasant condition in a short time.

Once the skin cracks open and discharges, it should be given a good cleaning with lukewarm water and castile soap; then dried.

Either the old or the new method may be used. For the old treatment a quart bottle was used; this was filled halfway, with urine; then small pieces of brass and also some of copper were put in, and then the bottle was filled with strong cider-vinegar, and was hung in the sun for at least a week before it was used. Then it was applied to the sores with a rag or swab. This should be applied daily until the sores are healed.

A much quicker cure can be effected by the modern way, by mixing 1 oz. verdigris and 2 oz. flower of sulfur into ½ lb. of lard, and rubbing this on the sores. Give one good application, rubbing the salve well into the roots of the hair. Tie the horse so he cannot lick or bite at the sores, as verdigris is a deadly poison. The third day take a stiff brush, and gently but firmly brush all infected parts. The salve and the scabs will all come off clean; the sores will be found to be healed. Should a few stubborn sores still discharge, or look raw, touch these with a bit of the salve, and in a few days all will be healed.

If the sores persist after this treatment has been given, then it is no scratches, and a veterinary should be consulted.

Grease-heel is just a modified form of scratches, and the same treatment will do. A good way to prevent either of them is to keep stables clean, and if possible, dry and clean the horse’s hooves and legs each night.

2. Thrush. - “Fouler-shtrohl”.

This ailment can readily be detected by any good horseman, as soon as he enters the stable, by the peculiar smell.

In some cases it is the only way of recognizing the disease, as there is hardly any discharge. But the split or cleft in the frog will be seen to go up much further than ordinary; and if pried apart a stinking matter will be seen to seep out. When not treated from the start it may finally become so bad that the entire frog will separate from the rest of the hoof.

The very best thing to be done is to first put the horse in a clean dry stall. Then clean well with warm water and soap and dry it. Then take common table-salt, and press it into the crack with a paddle - a piece of cardboard (bobbadeckel) will do. Then plug the crack with hemp, flax, soft-rags, or even tissue paper can be used; in fact, anything to keep the salt in the crack. A piece of old rope, if it is unraveled, makes a very good plug.

Generally the second treatment will be found to be enough for this stinking mess.

Keeping the horses hooves clean and the entire stable kept clean and fumigated by spreading quicklime on the floor, will prevent a recurrence of it.

3. Mange - “Der giles-gretz”.

This is a parasitic ailment and it is very similar to the itch in human beings. It can be communicated from one horse to another and it is one of the most contagious diseases of the horse. It can readily be transferred from one horse to another by a curry-comb, a blanket, or by just lying in a stall where an infected horse had been stabled. In some cases the tiny parasites are so big that they can be seen with the naked eye.

At first the skin will be seen to be dry and scaly; and the hair comes off in patches. The horse will rub on anything within his reach. It often starts at the edge of the mane, and near the root of the tail. Small pimples form, and the tiny bug may be found under the scabs when they are picked off.

The best remedy is a good cleansing with soap and water; then rub on a salve made of 1 qt. glycerin, 1 gill creosote, one half pint of turpentine and 1 gill oil of juniper. If this is well rubbed in for a few days in succession, the trouble will be gone.

If the horse is given a table-spoon-full of the following: 1 part ginger, 1 part gutran, 1 part epsom-salt and 2 parts flowers of sulfur, mixed. A spoonful given in the feed twice a day for several days, and then once a day, it will be found to be very beneficial.

Some claim they have cured the mange by just putting on clear coal-oil; one of these cases, on being investigated, proved to be nothing but chicken lice (mites) although a licensed horse-doctor had treated the horse for mange.

4. Ring-worm - “der ring-worrem“.

This can easily be known by the round spots where the hair comes out, and also because the ends of the hair will be split open. Little blisters as big as a grain of wheat are formed in a ring; and if not treated, it will spread and keep on getting larger. One kind comes from indigestion and dirty stables, as well as poor ventilation. This kind will respond to an iodine treatment.

But the worst kind, which is caused by a parasite in the glands in the roots of the hair, is not so easy to get rid of. A concoction made by boiling nut-galls, and then adding ½ dram iodine and one dram iodide of potash and apply with a swab. All currycombs, utensils, harnesses, blankets, etc. should be thoroughly cleaned with a solution of strong soap-suds and a dram of corrosive sublimate.

A homemade remedy of 1 part skunk-cabbage, (Biskotza-grout) 1 part stramonium (huns-futsagrout) and 1 part pennyroyal (grutta-bolsein) fried in lard and then put on as hot as it can be borne on ones fingers, is a very good remedy, where drugs are not available; only it will take much longer to effect a cure.

5. Hidebound - “Tsu-ray”.

This is not really a disease, but the result of a general derangement of the entire system. But unlike the foregoing, it is not contagious. Improper feeding - moldy food or grain; feeding too much at one time, or also too little for some occasions may cause it. Watering a horse when over-heated can bring it on. The circulation refuses to function properly; the waste matter is not properly removed, and then the skin seems to sympathize with all the internal disorders. It will become dry, and it sticks to the body like the bark on a tree. Likewise it may be the fore-runner of a serious ailment like founders, glanders, distemper, etc. The hair will be dry and rough; no oil to make it sleek and glossy. The skin cannot be pinched fast with the fingers. The dung will be hot and dry, and dark-colored.

The horse should be given only light work for a few weeks; he should not be exposed to rain, snow, or very cold winds. If in Winter, and the stable is not very warm, several blankets should be put on him, so as to leave an opening along the back for ventilation. Old blankets can be used, and holes cut in, several inches apart. Regular daily grooming will help a lot in such cases.

Mix with the food twice a day, the following:

3 oz. sassafras bark (powdered)

3 oz. sulfur

3 oz. salt

3 oz. blood-root

1 lb. oat-meal.

Divide this into twelve doses. If a pole of green poplar-wood can be placed where he can gnaw at it, a good tonic will be furnished very economically. A loose condition of the bowels can be secured by giving an occasional spoonful of epsom salts on the grain. Should it be the forerunner of some other disease it may not respond readily to this treatment.

6. Saddle-galls. - “soddel-bloader”.

These always occur from ill-fitting or badly adjusted harness. They require very simple treatment. First the horse must be given rest for a few days. The galls should be bathed with cold salt-water, three times a day. If any callouses are formed they should be softened with olive oil and tar, equal parts, for several days, or until the scabs come loose easily. Then the saddle or harness must be adjusted so as not to cause a repetition of the trouble.

In some cases pads can be arranged, so as to remove any pressure on the tender parts. Sponging off the affected parts with a strong salt-water solution every night will help to toughen the skin.

Greasing the collars, saddles, etc. will soften the leather and help to prevent these troubles to a great extent.

7. Collar-galls. - “kummet-bloader”.

These are very easy to get rid of, as long as there is no tumor formed. Ordinary galls can be cured, or healed, while the horse is working. First remove the misfit collar. Take a sweat-pad and cut a hole in it where the gall is, so the surface of the collar will not touch the gall. I have seen my Dad heal some of these galls on horses while working, in a short time, while the poor horse’s owner had worked them day in and out without doing anything to alleviate their suffering.

Dad would spit on the sore and then throw on some clear flowers of sulfur. In the spring he would have some in his pocket in a small tin-box or wrapped in a paper, or it might even be loose in his pocket. But he was seldom minus his sulfur, and he seldom had a horse with a collar gall.

When we started to plow the horses had to be given a rest every other furrow; and the collars had to be pulled away from the breast and shoulders so the skin and hair would dry out. And every collar had to be as clean as a pin every morning before he allowed it to be used.

8. Warbles. - “de Brahmer”.

These sometimes infect the backs of horses out in pasture, especially near woodland, or brush or hedge-rows. They are formed by a large fly, looking very much like a black bumble-bee. They lay the eggs or nits in the back of the horse and they are hatched by the body-heat; then they go and burrow into the skin to the outer surface of the flesh or muscles. Here it remains as a small lump, and as the larva grows so does the tumor. Finally it will be found to discharge pus from a small hole in the skin. As the larva increases in size, so does the hole, until the larva is matured, when it can be seen moving around. The quickest way is to make a small cut with a sharp knife, and then they can be squeezed out by pressing the thumbs on each side of the hole. The wound should then be disinfected with any good fly-repellent and it will soon be healed.

I remember that my Dad, my brother, and I removed some seventy from the back of one steer one nice Spring-day, when I was a kid. I know of one well authenticated case where one laid an egg into the back of a boy while he was picking berries.

9. Poll evil. - “Kupp-gschlier”.

This is a very deep abscess on top of the head, or poll - hence the name. If this is not attended to from the start it will finally infect the bones of the neck. It can be caused by a blow or by bruising the head on a low door-sill. A poultice made of flaxseed-meal, corn-meal or bran, oil of turpentine and lard will remove the swelling in a few days. When the swelling now comes to a head it should be opened with a very sharp knife. Such cases are best left to the care of a competent veterinarian.

10. Glanders. - “Der aivich rutser.“

The best remedy for this serious ailment is a bullet, administered by a good marksman. The disease is incurable, is very contagious, and can be acquired by the person using and/or caring for the horse. It can readily be detected by a dull, heavy look - red and staring eyes. The hair is dry and the horse is very thin in flesh. There will be a slight discharge in but one nostril - usually the left one; once in a while it may be the right one, but never both.

The discharge soon increases in volume or flow and turns into a sticky yellowish mucus, which will drip from the nose in stringy clots. By this time a lump can be felt on the lower jaw-bone, inside on the jawbone.

The lining of the nose will be of a dark purple color; also circular ulcers will be seen in the nostrils. I am not suggesting any treatment as the chances of infecting other stock or human beings are too great.

One should be sure that it is not catarrh, which it sometimes very much resembles. But once it is identified as true glanders, then the horse should at once be destroyed, and either burned or buried in quick-lime, so as to avoid any chances of spreading the disease. All harness, blankets, utensils, and everything used around a glandered horse should likewise be speedily destroyed.

There used to be a state-law forbidding the sale of a glandered horse; and there was a fine of $1000.00 for violating the law.

Distemper - “der shtamper”.

This is most common among horses that have been shipped in by train, or it can be due to local climatic conditions. Once it breaks out in a stable the entire lot will usually get it. Young horses and colts will get it much sooner than older horses. It can be communicated by contact, or by getting the breath of a sick horse, at a distance. Fumigating the stable with tobacco-smoke is believed by some to give relief. Tobacco-leaves, ribs, stems, or even the sweepings from the floor of cigar-factories, if scattered in the troughs and manger, will also help to control the disease.

I remember how my Dad would boil tobacco in a big iron kettle, and dip some of it out into a small tub and place it under the horse’s nose; so he must inhale the vapor. While trying to adjust some kind of a hood over the horse’s head, it reared and came down with a front foot on one of Dad’s. I heard a wonderful flow of words - many more of Pennsylvania Dutch profanity, than Latin names of diseases and remedies.

In the start there is a dry cough and a thin watery discharge from the nose; this soon turns to a thick offensive discharge. The throat now swells, and an abscess is formed on the under side of the throat. This will break open in a few days; the horse is now on a fair way to recovery.

If the horse is kept dry, given complete rest, and given a light, nourishing diet, he will soon be over it. All drinking-water should have the chill removed. A good condition powder will help to put him back on his feet.

12. Founder of the chest.

This is the result of over-working the horse; or it can be caused by rheumatism. It can be caused by allowing the horse to drink when in an overheated condition, or to feed heavily when in the same condition. It can be caused by driving through a creek while the horse is very hot and sweated.

First there will be a cold; a swollen throat and enlarged glands. He should be kept warm and dry. The throat should be bathed with warm salt-water. A strong tea made from mint or catnip will be found to be very helpful. Some would crush or pound these herbs, and bind them on the throat as a poultice.

13. Bronchitis.

This starts in the same manner as the above; only there is much more inflammation; and it extends down into the bronchial tubes, and air passages. It sometimes is incurable.

There is much difficulty in breathing, and a cough that is hard and dry; a rattling sound can be heard in the throat; a gurgling noise accompanies each breath, and if not given proper treatment the horse will die of strangulation.

Dad would keep such a horse warm and give him an injection or remove the dung from the bowels. Soft food would be given him. He would wash the horse’s neck and chest with a solution of scalded tobacco, as hot as he could put his hands in it. Then he would make a plaster of 1 oz. powdered cantharides, 1 oz. powdered resin, and 4 oz. lard-oil; he would apply this blister copiously. The horse was given no dry or dusty food. He would boil oats until soft, and give warm bran-mashes; if it was in Summertime I had to lead the horse out, morning and evening and let him eat grass along the roadside.

All the feed was moistened for a considerable time after the horse had recovered; this helped to avoid a relapse. Dad was no horse-doctor, but he certainly knew horses; and he also knew of a lot of home-remedies.

We, (my Dad and I) knew of a case where a man gave his horse all the whiskey he could get him to drink, and actually sweated it out, and broke up the cold in the congested lungs and tubes. Some horses are very much like humans in this respect - they refuse to drink it, although it would be good for them under the circumstances.

I myself have had some speedy recoveries by giving some whiskey along with the medicine given by the veterinary, without his knowledge; and he could not account for the speedy recovery of the patient. When I told him, he looked at me and smiled, and remarked: “Woo bisht do in de shool gonga?” (Where did you go to school?) He never said that I had done wrong; but he, as well as I knew that I had saved him several trips to my farm, and had saved myself several trips to my purse. And the supplementary aid had kept both me and the patient warm during the long cold night, even if it did hurry the horse’s recovery and curtail the doctor’s bill.

14. Pneumonia - “Lunga-fever”.

This is very serious, and it often will end fatally. A good doctor should be secured at once. The horse will be standing straddled - his legs wide apart; there will be chills and shivering. A tumbler-full - about 4 oz. of whiskey in a half-pint of water will act as a stimulant until the doctor comes; an ounce of ginger in a pint of water, or ½ oz. of turpentine in ½ glass of water, will also help.

Keep the bowels open, and promote circulation by rubbing the legs. If the horse gets very weak, give him more whiskey; but stop it if no results can be seen. I still remember one close escape I had while squatting underneath and rubbing away for dear life, when all of a sudden he fell over. I got out and grabbed the lantern and by that time the horse was dying. I knew that whiskey would not help him, so I myself took what was left in the bottle, and crept into a pile of hay in the feed entry. I can still hear Dad yell when he found us - the horse lying in the box-stall stiff and cold; and poor me, all hot and limp as a rag. “Well, ‘s hut enny how em aisel kulfa! Owver der Dan iss ferdommt sei dote!” (Well, it helped the jack-ass! But I’ll be damned, old Dan is dead!” That awoke the poor inebriated amateur doctor, and provoked the reply: “Ya, un daar doe iss awe net weidt weck!” (Yes, and this one is not far off!) Then Dad had to laugh in spite of himself. When I gave him the details, he didn’t scold or rebuke me - he only looked at the bottle, and saw it too was dead. So he said: “Tsway dote, un der onner sheer - meer besser shicka fer der looder-wanga!” (Two dead, and one almost - we better send for the scavenger.)

Sometimes he would mix some linseed-meal into a ball by stirring it into molasses, and add a bit of camphor - about a spoon-full, and also a like amount of carbonate of ammonia.

Some of the old-timers claimed they cured a horse sick of pneumonia by wrapping him up in steaming hot hay and blankets, and giving him all the apple-jack they could pour down his throat. They insisted that the horse had pneumonia; it may have been only a bad case of bronchitis.

15. Colds. - “des koldt”.

Horses are subject to colds much similar to their masters; they can be acquired from numerous causes too various to mention. The best remedy is to keep the horse warm and dry; give light feed and rest for a few days. If constipated feed him on boiled or steamed oats.

If a bag of pine saw-dust can be fastened to his nose, and an ounce of turpentine poured in, and then hot water poured into the bag, so that the horse inhales this vapor, and repeat this every half hour. If this is done about four or six times a day (depending on the severity of the case) or until the water will run freely from his nose; then three times a day will be enough.

If the throat was sore, Dad would make a poultice of linseed-meal and a spoonful of mustard added. This was also the time when he would feed lots of dark-brown sugar - it was very dark brown and moist.

I pitied the poor horses, but I never refused to help to doctor them, for I loved that sugar and I ate many a pound and had a nip out of the bottle.

16. Laryngitis. - “Wayer Hols”.

The symptoms are very much like a bad cold, or bronchitis; but there is a swelling of the larynx, and a short frequent cough. If the ear is held against the horse’s neck, a short grunt can be heard every breath he takes. Handling the throat seems to cause great pain; and when he drinks the water will flow out of his nose all the time. I cured a bad case of this when I run out of medicine and the mare started to get very sick. I took turpentine, coal-oil, and melted lard, and put it on her throat with my hands as hot as I could stand it. I massaged her throat with my fingers, and in a short time she started to breathe much easier. I did this in the forenoon; and when Dad came home I told him about it. He said I should have come out to the field, ½ mile distant, and tell him that I had no more medicine. I told him that if I had done that, Topsy would not be living any more; what I did not tell him was that I had accidentally knocked the bottle over and spilled the medicine; and in my frightened condition I did only what any 12 year old would do. Thereafter that was our standard remedy, and we never lost a single patient.

17. Heaves. - “Windt-gabrucha”.

This is more a disease caused by stomachic disorder, than a lung disease. A man, overeating, and then going to do hard work immediately thereafter, will be in the same condition as a wind-broken horse. Feeding any dusty or mouldy fodder is a prime cause of this disorder. (it is no disease).

We had an old grey mare that had it so bad that I had to unhitch her from the harrow and put her in the stable.

The horse-doctor gave Dad a big bag full of powder to give to old “Nell”, and charged him $1.50 for it. I fetched at least four or five more bags of powder; and Nell still coughed and made a noise like a motor-bike at every cough. So our neighbor happened to come in one day; he was an old pal of my Dad’s from their boyhood days on, and a very good horseman. He was so good that he seldom had a horse-doctor. Dad and I were arguing about this powder - he said I should go and fetch another supply, and I refused, saying: “Es bot enny how nix!” (It didn’t help anyhow)

“Wos bott nix?” (What don’t help?) asked Daniel Swope; I told him. He said I should get him a piece of paper; I got the empty powder bag. Here is what he wrote on it: 1 Ib. ginger; 1 Ib. gentian; 1 Ib. rosin; 1 Ib. Epsom salt; 1 Ib. flower of sulfur; ½ Ib. black pepper; ¼ Ib. red pepper; 4 Ibs. sugar; 2 oz. antimony; ½ oz. rhubarb. This made a much larger package than we got from the doctor and only cost $1.35 in the store.

I tied old Nell so she had the coldest stall in the stable. The first thing I did every morning was to lead her out to the watering-trough and let her drink before feeding her. All she ate for the next three years was first wetted or moistened with water in a small sprinkling-can. She got a handful of the powder on her grain at each meal for several weeks; then twice a day, and then once a day; and in less than a year old Nell was as sound as a dollar, and she stayed that way. But I continued her wet feed so as to avoid all dust. Later, when I was farming on my own farm, I had an old mule, badly wind-broken when I bought him on a farmer’s sale for $5.00. Everybody laughed but me and that mule. I took him home - treated him the same way, and worked him whenever needed, for four years. One day he jumped over the fence and bloated on too much green alfalfa, and took a one-way ticket to his happy-hunting grounds. I would rather have cried for him than for some bipeds that I know.

Some claim that coal-oil given on the feed will cure heaves; for my part I choose to think that a glass of lager-beer would also do the trick - anything to moisten the feed.

A modern David Harum.

I know of several horse-dealers who know of a drug that if given to a horse with heaves he will not show it; but as soon as he drinks water, the drug ceases to function. And here, for the benefit of the unwary, I will relate a deed that actually happened years ago, between two men, now both deceased.

Old Ike Kilmer (der Dawdy) and Addie Fasanacht, the horse-jockey one day consummated a deal. Ike was a veteran cattle-dealer, and a man of means and also honest. Addie was the opposite; not saying that he was dishonest, but very shrewd. Ike had an old grey mare – wind-broken so he could not use her any more. She was in the stable all winter, and had long straggly hair. One day Addie came along and he bought the mare for $20.00. He took her home and clipped her all over. He fixed up her teeth (called bishoping) so they seemed to belong to a much younger horse. He fed her on wet feed and soon had her so that he could drive her and she wouldn’t show any sign of the heaves.

About six weeks or so later, he rang up the old cattle-dealer on the phone; he told him that he had a fine driving mare for him - one that he was sure old Ike would like.

“She is sound”, he said; “and she looks so much like your old Bess did, that I am sure you will want her once you see her!”

“Wos sull see kushta?” (How much does she cost?) old “Dawdy” asked him.)

“Ei, Ich muss $125.00 hovva - see iss sell waart!” (Why, $125.00 - she is worth that much.)

“Bring her up so I can see her!”, old Ike said; “If I like her I’ll buy her!”

Bright and early the next morning Addie drove from near Bernville to the Kilmer mansion west of Stouchsburg. Ike admired the mare. He said: “She looks exactly like Bess used to, when she was her age!” He got in the buggy and he drove her and then he started to unhitch her. Addie asked him: “Wos witt?” (What do you want?)

“Ei, de marr!” (Why, the mare) Ike said. He started to lead her to the watering trough, when Addie told him he had better not let her drink then, as she was quite warm from driving. So they put her in the stable and Ike paid $125.00 for her; some one of his help drove Addie home and tied his buggy on behind.

The next morning when the old cattle man came out and put the harness on the mare, he was surprised to find out that every hole in every strap fitted to a tee, using all the worn holes in the harness. He led her to the trough and let her drink. When he hitched her up, she acted so much like old Bess used to, that he couldn’t help remarking: “Mer maint net os es sei kent os Ich witter en grey-marr hob, so naigscht we de Bess waur, os mer der unnershit net sania con!” (One thinks it couldn’t be that I again have a grey-mare, and so much like Bess was, that one can’t tell the difference!)

He started to drive off; like he had always done, he got the whip and gave her a flip. “Pfoort!” something seemed to explode from under her tail. “Wos gote awe?” (What goes on here?)

He drove off; soon there were more “Pfoort! Pfoort!”

“Wos des dunnerwetter?” (What the thunder-weather!) he said. He did not drive far - he couldn’t, for the mare was so wind-broken that she could hardly walk home. When he reached home he told one of his hired men to put old Bess in her stall and leave her there until she died of her own self.

“I am too d-d dumb to try and get back at Addie for what he did to me - if a man is as old as I am, and is that dumb, he deserves no better!”

“Un ich wist mich no nuch shemma in der barriga!“ (And I’d have to be ashamed, into the bargain!)

Corn-fodder or good clean straw is much to be preferred for roughage for a horse with heaves. And furthermore old John Walborn used to say: “Der goul wor so naigscht om hoyluch shtait, sell iss ollawohl der goul woo heavy wert!” (The horse who stands closest to the hay-hole (where the hay is dropped down into the feed-entry from the mow) is always the one that gets the heaves.) And that will hold out 90 out of 100 cases. He gets all the dust from the hay falling down, and also at feeding time; and he’ll reach through between the trough and the rack, and he’ll sneak many a bite if he can”.

18. Colic.

There are two kinds of colic; the first is spasmodic, and is the result of cramps, with severe pain and inflammation. The other, and most serious, is a distension of the bowels, and rupture of the colon, or big gut.

In the first the horse will paw and strike at the belly with the hind foot, and look around at the flanks; he will lie down and roll, stretch out for a short time, and get up and shake himself when the spasm lets up. This will be repeated each time that another spasm comes on.

The best remedy I ever found out is two table-spoon-fuls of saleratus or baking-soda in a cup-full of strong vinegar, given internally; if not soon relieved, give a second dose; a third will not be necessary. If sick from colic, he will now be over it; and if it is no colic, he will be dead.

Or give the following if you can get it; ½ oz. of sulphuric ether, laudanum, spirits of camphor and pepper-mint, ½ oz. of each; mix it in a pint of gruel, tea, water, or anything so it can be given. Leading the horse around helps to remove the gas.

Flatulent Colic.

This is very dangerous; it may be caused by the former. The expression of pain is constant, but not so acute as the former. The pulse is very rapid and feeble; the feet and ears are cold. The belly is very much swollen like a drum. The horse seldom lies down, as it causes too much pain.

Oil the hand and empty the rectum. Give the horse ½ pint turpentine and a quart of soap-suds; repeat in ½ hour if necessary.

One oz. laudanum and 2 to 4 ozs. asafoetida will also help to remove the gas.

Once the horse is recovering, avoid drinking lots of water, and avoid over-feeding. Keep the horse warm, and give him extra grooming to promote circulation. When cured, get rid of him as it may occur later on and end fatally.

19. The Bot. - “de Botts”.

This is a female fly much resembling a bee. “Der niss-shisser”- (the nit-layer) is what the Dutchmen call it. The nits, much resembling timothy-seed, are deposited on the front legs of the horse, below the knee. Here the horse licks and bites to alleviate the itching, and thus gets the nits into his mouth; once they are swallowed they hatch, and the young hook into the inside of the mucous lining of the horse’s stomach. Here they mature, and are voided with the dung the following spring; they then burrow into the earth, and are once more changed into a perfect fly. Usually they don’t do much harm; but if in great numbers they sometimes fasten to the sensitive lining of the bowels; the resulting irritation is not easily detected, as it resembles ordinary indigestion or colic.

The horse may be seen to turn up his lip, and the edges of the tongue are red and fiery; it may then be safely assumed that the trouble is caused by these marauders.

A good old remedy is to give the horse a pint of sweet milk and a pint of molasses; this should be followed in an hour by a pint of linseed oil. The milk and the molasses will cause the grubs to let go their hold on the horse’s bowels, so they can eat their fill of the sweet sticky stuff; then when they are full, along comes the oil to flush the bowels, and out they go. I have seen as much as four quarts of them passed by a trotting bred mare that I owned years ago, after giving her the above treatment. If the legs are kept closely clipped, and are rubbed several times a day with a cloth well soaked with kerosene or any disinfectant, it will help to prevent a lot of trouble later.

20. Worms. - “Worrem”

When a horse looks unthrifty, hide-bound, and pot-bellied, worms may be suspected. The upper lip will be turned up, and rubbed on anything that can reached.

Dad would put a big bunch of sweet-fern - (“huls-fawra”) an arm-full of wormseed (warramet, udder bitter-shtengel tsu feel bauer’s-leidt) and a like quantity of tausy (kee-bitters) in the big iron kettle and boil it. Then it was strained and a pack (perhaps ¼ lb.) of tartar-emetic (wei-schtay) and a pound of ginger were added. Each horse was given about one small teacup full of this in the morning before feeding. About a week later they got another dose; and the result - goodbye worms.

Once in a while when he had a chance to go to the city drug store, he would get sulphate of iron and gentian; this was used as a tonic after the above mentioned tea had been given.

21. Lampas. - “der lompus”

This is a swelling and tender condition of the palate and of the bars in the roof of the mouth, behind the upper front teeth; it may be from teething in young horses, while older ones get it from indigestion. The gums protrude beyond the surface of the teeth, and are very painful when the horse tries to chew his food.

A very good remedy is to dissolve ½ Ib. of nitre (salt-paiter) in a quart of water, and wash out the infected gums with this solution. A few treatments will usually be sufficient. Never use caustics. Never burn the gums or bars with hot irons; never do any cutting. All of those barbarous and foolish proceedings can be avoided by the above simple treatment.

22. Slavering. - “Schlovvera”

This may be a fore-runner of various other complaints. It can also be brought on by feeding new, unfermented hay; white clover, and especially second crop hay (oomet) is very apt to cause it. Vinegar and honey diluted with rain-water, will also make an excellent mouth-wash for this ailment.

23. Hydrophobia - Rabies (Weedich worra).

This can be caused by the bite of a dog, a wolf, a cat - in fact by any animal that has the disease. He need not actually be bitten, as licking up the froth dropped by the rabid animal may give it; the poison or germ will be in both the spittle and the blood of the infected animal.

While still quite young I used to hear the old folks tell of a mad stallion that used to roam the woods; and of horses, cows, dogs and cats becoming rabid from being bitten. Others claimed that the horse never had rabies, but was a wild, untamed and savage horse, once domesticated, and found to be so obstreperous that one day the owner, getting tired of trying to subdue him, just cut the rope and let him run. Into the woods he ran; and from there on he was said to be mad. The horse, not having a mate, was sex-crazy; and the cats and dogs undoubtedly had fits, like cats and dogs still do, when not taken care of, and are plagued by hordes of worms, lice, fleas, and various parasites.

I have seen horses did from mad-staggers or softening of the brain, and they could easily have been mistaken for hydrophobia.

The name hydro-phobia means fear of water; how a horse acts when affected by it, I do not know. I had a dog one time that would never cross any creek; and I have since thought he might have been suffering from this ailment, although the dog seemed to be in good health. Once I got tired of carrying him or throwing him over I one day sold him to another hunter, a mile from the nearest creek and never saw nor heard about him.

But anybody having horses, dogs, or cats will act wisely if he keeps them closely confined any time they start acting funny and try to bite at anything within reach. While in this condition they are dangerous, even if not mad, as the wounds they inflict may cause blood-poison. In such cases one does well by calling a reliable veterinarian at the earliest possible convenience, and then follow his instructions, if possible.

July 1st. 1952 Victor C. Dieffenbach.


English and Pennsylvania German

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Dieffenbach on Horses: Diseases and Remedies



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