In a previous article on Starting and Shying, I mentioned defective or deceptive sight as one of the causes of these failings, and I am bold enough to say I feel confident I shall be borne out in this opinion by professional men.
Many persons form a very delusive and ill-founded opinion as regards the propriety of applying to a veterinary surgeon, and consequently often sustain great loss by tampering with their horses themselves, or, what is far worse, permit their grooms to do the same thing. A man must know little indeed of the ailments of horses if he does not know, from some information or other, more than an ordinary groom. If he does not, it is the very reason why he should seek for his horse professional advice; for, without it, he can be no judge whether the animal is being scientifically treated, or his disease or ailment aggravated. The next, and perhaps worse, step many take, is to seek the advice of some mere farrier. Now, the groom, probably, does not venture beyond his favourite remedies-"a rattling dose of physic," a "good strong diuretic," or a "warm oil"-the latter applied to any enlargement, whether it proceeds from inflammation or weakness; but the farrier has (in his own estimation) professional skill, has got hold of the names (but not the subsequent effects) of iodine, opium, croton-oil, euphorbium, etc., with some others, the aid (or rather detriment) of which he calls in on certain appearances manifesting themselves, without the slightest consideration of the origin of such appearance. We will say a horse's legs swell when in the stable. He begins, in his phrase, to "clear the humour out of him" by a strong dose of, say, ten or twelve grains of the commonest or worst description of aloes, this followed by a course of diuretics; orders the horse only to get bran, or grass if it is to be had; and probably completes the thing by bleeding. Fortunately, these men, when they do bleed, seldom take blood enough away to do much harm, and never enough (in cases that call for such proceeding) to do any good. Now all this is done, very probably, in a case that calls for tonics and generous nutriment.
We all know (at least, most men accustomed to horses know) that, from the mode in which we feed and use them, inflammation accompanies most of their disorders; but, though a mild dose of physic may prevent inflammation of the bowels, a strong dose, given when inflammation has taken place, may very probably cause death. It is quite certain we do not want a veterinary surgeon to administer a ball; but many persons do very much want his professional skill to determine whether such ball (be its usual effects what they may) is proper to be given in a particular disease, or in a particular stage of that disease.
Mr. Major advertises his "British Remedy" as a cure for recent, or, in many cases, for diseases of long standing, and I am quite willing to accord my humble meed of praise to the efficacy of his remedy; but I would by all means recommend any man not thoroughly conversant with the ailments of horses to send his horse to Mr. Major, for inspection, prior to applying the remedy, and- I have no doubt but in such case he would be honourably and honestly told whether a cure could be effected, or, if not, how far the remedy might be effectual as a palliative; for we are not told it will reduce a regularly anchylosed joint of any long standing. In such case a man might as well apply it to the horse's shoe; he would only experience expense, waste of time, and disappointment, all of which a simple fee of half a guinea would have avoided, or he would be gladdened by the assurance of a cure being effected.
Many people believe, and I have heard them frequently state, to use their own terms, "If I send my horse to a veterinary surgeon, he will be sure to make a job of it." In the generality of such cases such impression is both illiberal and unjust. I should as soon suspect, and in fact insult, Sir B. Brodie, by supposing he would make a job of me, as I should accuse a man of Mr. Field's respectability (and many others) of making a job of my horse. Men's parsimony in the first place often (and it is quite right, by way of example, it should be so) ends in severe loss in the long run.
I have not, personally, paid much to the veterinary profession-this not arising from any want of confidence or any fear of being subject to any charges beyond what would be a fair remuneration for their skill and trouble; but solely from the fact that I mostly paid such attention to my horses as stopped any ailment or disease before it arrived at such height as required professional skill to control. But I never for a moment delayed seeking such advice where I was in doubt or difficulty, and I should strongly recommend others to do the same.
There are two ways of doing this: the one being to get a vet. to visit the horse at his own stable; the other the sending the horse to the stable or infirmary of the professional man. In most cases I should recommend the latter. In case of illness, the animal is not subject to cold in his walk to and from the infirmary; and in case of hurts, when he is there all the appliances necessary on the occasion are at hand. You, of course, pay a few shillings per week more for the horse standing there than he would cost you at home; but to set against this, if a professional man has to visit the horse, a fair remuneration for so doing will be found to mount up to a sum a great deal more than the difference of charge for livery. Again, it takes up a good deal of a servant's time; but, worse than this, if the man is not a very trustworthy one, a sick horse being held at a public-house door by any boy who may be by, while the groom regales himself within, is not exactly desirable for an animal perhaps under the influence of calomel, nor very likely to promote the efforts of the professional man towards a cure.
There is another objection to horses remaining at home while under medical treatment. Servants, unless watched, are very apt not to carry out the vet.'s directions in an attentive and proper manner; for instance, a horse is ordered warm fomentations to be applied for perhaps an hour at a time. This hour is very apt to be curtailed three parts, so that the man may with truth assert the horse "has been fomented." He has, but in a way that is of no more use, in a medical point of view, than is the warm water the man applies to his own face while shaving. The swelling and heat of the part does not by this diminish, and when it does it is probably the medicine the animal has taken internally that alone produces a favourable change.