Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Horse Infirmary, Coventry

An 18th century advertisement:

~ R E W's Unparalleled Diuretic Horse Balls prepared by no one in the Kingdon
but his Assign and Successor E J Palfrey ~

Answering every purpose where Physic is required [to be sold] by the Maker, E J Palfrey, Farrier, at the Horse Infirmary, Coventry, where DISEASES and ACCIDENTS incident to HORSES are judicious treated; Horses and Colts cut, Tails set, Ears Foxed or Cropped, Stars in the forehead made in the best and modern Manner &c &c.

The really terrifying thing about this advertisement (for which, to Rosemary Hall, many thanks) is that the Coventry Horse Infirmary might have been the best thing available.

It obviously served the needs of fashion as well as health: I can't think of any purpose cropping a horse's ears would serve other than fashion.  Foxing appears to be much the same thing as cropping:  Charles Augustus Goodrich's 1831 New Family Encyclopaedia, or Compendium of Universal Knowledge describes foxing thus:

"FOXING.  This consists of depriving a horse of a portion of his ears, for the purpose of improving his looks. An easy mode of performing the operation is to take a small paintbrush and with paint in contrast in colour to the horse, mark the ears of the shape and length required:  then place a switch on the horse's nose, at the same time holding up a fore foot; with a sharp knife cut the ears in the line made by the paint.  Wash the wound with salt and water once a day for a week, after which apply sweet oil until healed.  Those horses only which have small, thin, delicate heads, are improved by foxing."

Washing the wound afterwards, I would imagine, must have depended on whether the horse would let you anywhere near it after you'd shaved bits off its ears with no anaesthetic.

I have managed to track down an Elizabeth method (in fact, several) for making a star, but more about that tomorrow.

7 comments:

susannaforrest said...

OY.

Now... I remember being haunted as a child by a pony book where a horse has a star added. Cut and wire put in or something. Was it one of the Pullein-Thompson Black Beauty books?

Sue Howes said...

Ouch! Poor horses.

My pony had a plastic eartag punched into his ear when I bought him (similar to a cattle tag). It took four months before he was happy enough with his ears being touched again so that I could get the horrid thing out.

I can just imagine how ear-shy ear-cutting would make a horse, and all just for fashion. Yuk.

Fran Jurga said...

Thanks, this is intriguing! More, please!

Jane Badger said...

It sounds likely that the wire was in one of the PT Black Beauty books, but a quick skim through the few I have hasn't turned it up.

Gillian said...

I know the story you mean. It's a stand alone short story, and I think it was called something like 'A Star for a Lady.'
A plain bay mare is given a diamond shaped star in order to make her more saleable, and there's some kind of divine retribution for the dealer who orders it to be done (with the wires under the skin method - the star that is, not the retribution).

I had it in an anthology, but can't find it now. It may have been one of C P-T's Pony Scrapbook collections, as I don't have any of those. It's not in that fat hardback of P-T short stories, or in C P-T's book of Pony Stories.

susannaforrest said...

Well remembered, Gillian. I have most of my pony books here so I'm guessing it's in an anthology somewhere. I will have a root...

Fiona said...

It is in one of the Black Beauty Family books, I think it might be Black Princess (we are having some of the rooms decorated so everything is in the wrong place, can't find the book) it is the mare that is hired to do Black Princess's work after she was ill. The mare describes how her "pretty white star" was made to Black Princess's & the reader's horror.