Now that we’re all caught up on Windsor photos (except for one last upcoming guest post), let’s switch gears and spend a few days looking back in time.

In earlier centuries, books on horse health and horse care were extremely popular and plentiful. We have a copy of the third (corrected) edition of a book by W. Gibson. It’s called The True Method of Dieting Horses. Containing Many Curious and Useful Observations concerning their Marks, Color and External Shape; their Temper and Instinct; and how they are to be governed, so as to prevent Accidents and Diseases. It was printed in London in 1731.


Chapter IX is the only one that specifically covers driving horses.

“Having laid down the proper method of ordering traveling horses, we are, in the next place, to take some notice of those that work; under which term, are chiefly understood draft horses, or such as carry burdens. If proper care be taken of laboring horses, they may last many years in good condition. And there is no labor which exposes a horse so much to accidents, as drawing in a coach. The team, or waggon, always goes at a slow rate; and unless where there happens to be very bad road, or in places where there are steep ascents, their labor is uniform; and is so far from being injurious and hurtful, that nothing conduces more to the health of those horses, which are large and fit for draft.

“As this is the business assigned to them by their make and size; so we can never meet with any of them in so good a condition, as when they are taken out of a farmer’s team. Drawing makes them not only eat heartily, but digest what they eat; so that their food turns to good nourishment. And while they are in this service, they are exposed to no accidents after their shoulders are once hardened, but such as may easily be avoided.

“But the drawing in a coach has a quite different effect upon the bodies of those large horses. And, besides the inconveniences at first from the harness, they are oftentimes put out to a full trot, which, albeit they have no rider, yet, as has been observed, their own weight exposes them to chest-foundring, and many other accidents; especially, to such as affect their wind. And by reason many of that kind are thick and fleshy about their legs and pasterns; they are, upon the least excess, either of feeding or exercise, subject to gourdiness and swellings in those parts, and to all the other accidents subsequent thereunto.

“The labor of coach horses is not very hard while they only work in the streets; and the greatest and most necessary care to be had of them, is of their feet, that they be well shod. And they should be frequently looked to, that they be not wounded with rusty nails, pieces of glass, or earthenware, which people are apt to throw out of their houses. The coachman ought also in cold weather never to suffer them to stand too long without gently moving them. And if he be so hemmed in, that he cannot have room to drive, as it sometimes happens, he ought now and then to let them hear the lash, and even sometimes to touch them gently with it, unless they be such as are full of mettle and spirit, which alone will keep them in sufficient action, and be the means to prevent many of those accidents which happen to others of a sluggish, unactive disposition.”

We’ll continue with Chapter IX tomorrow …