There were no veterinarians in 1707, yet horses were essential to daily life. It’s not surprising therefore that Katherine Windham, mistress of Felbrigg Hall, made notes of remedies that she might make up to deal with illnesses amongst the horses in the stables.
Here is a small selection of those remedies, transcribed by my friends Bonnie Lovelock and Roger Sykes.
An Excelent Farsy Water
Take 1 gallon of Strong wort, set it on ye fire, put in as much tansy and Ragweed, as you can, but double ye quantety of Ragweed boyle it till ye stalkes are tender, yn strain it out, & when it is cold botle it, to every quart put a quarter of a pint of Brandy, so keep it for ys use
if for a swelling bathe it as hot as can be indured
if to drye up milke use it just warm
if to keep backe any humour, foment it with Hot cloths
To Cure Horses Heels
Most of these remedies probably did little good, though it’s impossible to tell precisely. Still, in absence of anything more scientific, they were better than doing nothing. Working horses were not well treated anyway in the 18th century, so the ‘turnover’ of beasts was probably quite high. As with human medicine, it’s hard for us to grasp what it must have been like to be so helpless in the face even of minor illnesses.
- Murrain (or Muren, Murrain, Murein): an infectious disease of cattle and sheep. An umbrella of various diseases including anthrax, rinderpest and foot and mouth. ↩
- When Katherine writes this, it seems to mean she had tried it successfully herself. ↩
- Aqua Mirabilis: literally “wonder water”. A distillation of cloves, galangal, cubeb, mace, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger and wine. ↩
- Venice Treacle or Theriaca andromachi. A complex medicinal paste of 64 ingredients bound together by honey, jam or sugar syrup. Used in veterinary practice, and administered by smearing on the teeth, gums, or tongue as a panacea or salve. ↩
- Farsy (or Farcy, also Glander): a contagious disease of horses marked by swellings beneath the jaw and mucous discharge from the nostrils. ↩
- Wort: the liquid made by boiling malted barley during the process of brewing beer. ↩
- Tansy (or Tansye): a bitter-tasting, wild medicinal and culinary herb. ↩
- Ragweed: medicinal uses of crushed leaves or roots include as an astringent, antiseptic or emollient. ↩
- Tanners Ouse (or ooze): the liquid from a tanner’s vat. ↩
- Coperas: sulphates of copper from which sulphuric acid is made. ↩