Lotions, potions and charms

Every horseman had his own secret store of lotions and potions. His personal recipes would be a closely-guarded secret. Some ingredients such as herbs and plants could be gathered from the surrounding countryside.

Others were purchased from pharmacies and chandlers.


Many of the ingredients were extremely toxic, and it is a wonder how some horses survived the kindly-meant ministrations of their carers. Horses were routinely dosed with arsenic, antimony and mercury. Other substances, although unpleasant, were probably less harmful: tar, caster oil, urine, soot, soap and turpentine were all thought to be beneficial tonics. Opium was commonly administered as a sedative.


These recipes and remedies were often copied into handwritten notebooks. The notebooks themselves were jealously guarded and rarely shown to anyone else. Very few of them survive today. The Horseman's Word project team has been fortunate enough to have uncovered a handful of them. Some transcribed facsimile pages are below.

Most are pencil written in beautiful, copperplate handwriting.


The Adams Heritage Centre in Littleport houses the Horseman's Word archive. These notebooks may be viewed there, on request.


A horseman's medicine chest. In an age when vetenary assistance was hard to come by,most horseman relied on remedies from their own stores. A horseman's chest would contain a variety of proprietory preparations and home made remedies for common ailments: mud fever, ringworm, galls and ulcers, coughs and laminitis. 



Most horseman took pride in creating their own special concoctions. 

Linseed oil, turpentine, black tar and sulphur are commonly recurring ingredients.

An original recipe for a 'drawing oil.' This was used to make a horse follow and obey its handler 

A rather unpleasant recipe for a 'jading' lotion. Mercury (quicksilver) and ground glass would be a very powerful irritant.

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