Under the above heading Dr. Parkes, in his classical work on Hygiene, refers to individual hygiene as a large subject which would require a volume to itself; it will be understood that by the use of the term that great authority means to include everything which is in any way connected with the habits of the individual: - his work and his amusements, the nature of his diet, and the amount of exercise and rest which he takes, the kind of clothing which he wears, the climate which he inhabits, in short, everything which the man does or leaves undone. Even the exercise of his reasoning faculties, to quote the words of the author, "the amount of mental work, the practice of general good temper, cheerfulness, and hope", are all concerned in digestive processes, and they are all included in the term individual hygiene. Obviously in applying the term to the lower animals a very large part of the subject, i.e. everything which relates to mental processes and the exercise of volition, everything indeed which the individual does by intention, must be necessarily omitted, because the animal in domestication has no choice in the matter of his diet, the amount of exercise or work, the gratification of his wants, whether reasonable or otherwise, as everything is arranged by the stable attendants. For these reasons the heading "individual hygiene" must be applied to the acts of the individual who attends to the horse, the animal itself being only called upon to submit to what is done for it or what it is constrained to do.
The author of Veterinary Hygiene adopts Dr. Parkes's classification generally, and deals with such matters as grooming, clipping, clothing, bedding, and other items of stable management, which vary considerably in different establishments, according to the character of the work which the horse has to perform, or the views of the owner as to the comforts which are necessary for the animal's well-being, or the amount of luxury even which may be allowable in reference to stable construction and stable appliances.
Grooming is the term which is used to include the various methods of cleaning horses, whether engaged in work or resting in the stable. The instruments employed for the purpose include brushes of different degrees of hardness; a curry-comb, which is a kind of iron rake with fine teeth; wisps, which are small bundles of hay or straw twisted up into a convenient shape by the stable attendant who employs them; sponges, and an iron hook which is employed for removing mud from the feet. A thin flexible band of steel with handles at each end, known as a scraper, is also employed for scrap-Tig wet mud from the sides and other parts of a horse on a return from a journey in wet muddy weather.
In the ordinary course, horses are groomed in the morning for the purpose of cleaning the skin from the dirt which may have accumulated during the night. This application of the brush with a certain amount of force not only removes the surface dirt, but also stimulates the skin and improves the circulation. It is usual to follow the brush by the wisp of hay or straw, and this part of the process is usually carried on by the stableman with considerable energy, and with the utterance of a peculiar whistling noise, which may be taken as a habit on the part of the operator, but is also considered by some people to be soothing to the horse. The wisp is usually brought down upon the skin with a certain amount of force, and then drawn along the hair, and the whole effect is doubtless very complete as a method of beating out the dust from the animal's coat.
Fig. 4S4. - Curry-comb.
Fig. 485. - Scraper.
The brush that is employed in the first instance is known as a dandy brush. (See fig. 486.) At different times during the application of this brush the attendant employs the curry-comb, an instrument with an iron back, having secured to it a series of small plates with fine saw-like teeth, intended solely for the cleaning of the brush from the accumulation of dirt and loosened portions of cuticle (dandruff), of which word the name given to the brush is evidently a corruption. The curry-comb is sometimes resorted to for the purpose of assisting in cleaning a thick coat and a very scurfy skin; it is hardly necessary to say that the currycomb was never intended for any such purpose, and that its use is altogether objectionable. In fact, unless considerable care is exercised, it may happen that the skin of the animal, to which a new and therefore sharp curry-comb is applied, may be considerably damaged at those parts where the skin is closely applied to bone, as in the protuberant part of the hips, for instance, and the owner of a horse observing such injuries may be pretty safe in suspecting the curry-comb, and in declining altogether to believe the ordinary explanation that the horse has scratched himself against a wall or the side of the stall.
The feet and legs, in muddy weather especially, are generally washed, and in the case of hunters, which after a run in heavy country in wet weather are covered with mud on the legs and lower parts of the body, washing with hot or cold water according to fancy is usually employed after the scraper has been used to clear away the greater portion of the mud. This procedure, so usual, and on the face of it so natural, a way of getting rid of the dirt that the stableman would have been once condemned as inefficient and idle if he had neglected it, has for a very long time continued without the least suspicion that it could under any circumstances be objectionable. It was very well known, however, that there existed a disease of the skin, which was called mud fever on account of its affecting horses which were working on muddy roads or hunting in wet districts, and various methods of treatment were employed for its cure, and some countries had the credit of possessing soils which contained an unknown but extremely irritating constituent. It was, however, always the case that these parts of the country were perfectly harmless in dry seasons, but, having loose loamy soil, were readily converted into mud by heavy rains, and certainly no particular constituent likely to cause irritation was ever discovered, nor with our present knowledge of the subject is there any reason to suspect that such peculiar constituent existed.
Fig. 486. - Dandy Brush.
To complete the story it is necessary to relate that some fifty years ago a veterinary surgeon in the midland counties discovered, in the course of his practice, that mud fever never occurred in badly conducted stables, where the attendants were either too lazy or too much occupied to trouble themselves about the mud on the animals' legs and other parts, but turned them into their stalls untouched, and got rid of the mud the following morning with the greatest ease, commonly by the aid of the ordinary birch broom, which, being applied to the parts where the dried mud remained, at once swept it off in the form of fine dust. The discoverer, whose name has escaped the writer's memory, as it has that of all modern writers on the subject, apparently induced some hunting men to try the method, to the great disgust of the grooms, as a matter of course. The system very soon became quite general in large establishments, and cracked heels and eruptions on the legs and other parts of the body almost, and in some cases entirely, ceased to appear among the horses.
In the best establishments, where the proper appliances are always to hand and understood, the practice is to envelop the muddy legs in dry, warm, flannel bandages, and brush the dust out of the coat the following morning.
As soon as the fact was discovered that washing the muddy skin was injurious, and all the more when hot water was used, a satisfactory physiological explanation was at hand; indeed, an experiment by one celebrated physiologist has only to be quoted in order to make the whole matter perfectly clear.
The experiment was one connected with a series relating to the causes of inflammation under the influence of change of temperature. The ear of a rabbit was subjected to the influence of cold fluid until the blood was driven from the superficial vessels by the contraction of the arteries. The animal was then at once transferred into a warm chamber. The blood immediately rushed back into the channels from which it had just before been driven, with the necessary result that some vessels were blocked by the excess of blood, while in others the circulation was going on with rapidity.
Fig. 187. - Barton-Gillette Clipping Machine.
All the essential phenomena of the inflammatory process were thus induced.
Washing the feet is, of course, entirely free from the objection which attends washing the skin, as the hard horny substance which forms the hoof has no vessels, and consequently no circulation which can be disturbed; and when, in the case of light-coloured horses, washing the legs is insisted on, it should be done with cold water, the greatest possible care should be taken to dry thoroughly the parts which have been washed, and bandages should be at once applied. The practice of washing horses all over cannot possibly be defended. It is totally unnecessary, and, when it is done, the chances are entirely in favour of the animal being left in a wet condition, unless there are sufficient helpers at hand to ensure that the wisps, which must be frequently changed, are applied with sufficient energy, and for a sufficiently long time, to get rid of all the moisture.
Clipping, or singeing, or both, are absolutely necessary in the case of horses which have a thick winter coat, and are engaged in ordinary work. There is no doubt that the presence of a heavy coat indisposes the animal to exertion; the warmth naturally leads to excessive sweating, and the coat wetted in this way is dried with very great difficulty.
It has been suggested, as an objection against clipping, that a horse, after the removal of a thick coat, is likely to take cold; but this objection may be easily disposed of by the use of extra clothing for a time. In some cases among working horses a portion of the hair is left on the back and loins and also on the extremities.
Clothing, in the best establishments at any rate, is looked upon as one of the necessities of stable management, and if we accept Stewart's observation that its effect is to keep horses warm without endangering the purity of the air they breathe by restricting ventilation, it is evident that the use of clothing can be defended on hygienic principles. Clothing is in favour with grooms and coachmen, and is sometimes used to excess for the purpose of keeping a horse's coat fine and glossy. It must be quite obvious, however, that thick clothing during hot weather is in every respect objectionable, and that, when it is employed, it should be regulated in regard to its weight, according; to the climatic conditions under which the horses are placed.
Fig. 488. - Horse-clippers.
Fig. 489. - Clippers for Trimming Legs.