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bare pavement can order that, after the stall is thoroughly cleaned and swept out, a thin layer of straw shall be laid over the stones during the daytime. In dealers' and livery stables, and indeed in some gentlemen's, the pavement is sanded over, which has a nice appearance, and prevents slipping.
When the foul litter is abstracted, and the straw bedding taken from under the horse, none of it should be pushed away under the manger; let it be entirely removed: and in fair weather, or where a shed is available, the bedding should be shaken out, to thoroughly dry and let the air pass through it.
Wheaten is more durable than oaten straw for litter: but the fibre of the former is so strong that it will leave marks on the coat of a fine-skinned animal wherever it may be unprotected by the clothing; however, this is not material.
Light should be freely admitted into stables, not only that the grooms may be able to see to clean the horses properly, and to do all the stable-work, but if horses are kept in the dark it is natural that they should be more easily startled when they go into full daylight,—and such is always the consequence of badlylighted stables. Of course, if a horse is ailing, and sleep is absolutely necessary for him, he should be placed separate in a dark quiet place.
Stalls should be wide, from six to seven feet across if possible, yielding this in addition to other advantages, that if the partitions are extended by means of bars to the back wall, either end stall can be turned into a loose-box sufficiently large to serve in an emergency.
A Loose-Box is unquestionably preferable to a stall (in which a horse is tied up all the time he is not at work in nearly the same position), and is indispensable in cases of illness. Loose-boxes should be paved with narrow bricks; and when prepared for the reception of an animal whose shoes have been removed, the floor should be covered with sawdust or tan, or either of these mixed with fine sandy earth, or, best of all, peatmould when procurable,—any of which, where the indisposition is confined to the feet only, may be kept slightly moistened with water to cool them.
In cases of general illness, straw should be used for bedding; and where the poor beast is likely to injure himself in paroxysms of pain, the walls or partitions should be well padded in all parts within his reach, and as a further precaution let the door be made to open outwards, and be fastened by a bolt, as latches sometimes cause accidents.
Partitions should be carried high enough towards the head to prevent the horses from being able to bite one another, or get at each other's food.
With regard to stable-kickers, see the remarks on this subject under the head of "Vice " (page 85).
Racks and Mangers are now made of iron, so that horses can no longer gnaw away the manger piecemeal. Another improvement is that of placing the rack on a level with and beside the manger, instead of above the horses' heads; but notwithstanding this more reasonable method of feeding hay when whole, it is far preferable to give it as manger-food cut into chaff.
Flooring.—In the construction of most stables a cruel practice is thoughtlessly adopted by the way of facilitating drainage (and in dealers' stables to make horses look large), viz., that of raising the paving towards the manger considerably above the level of the rear part. It should be borne in mind that the horse is peculiarly sensitive to any strain on the insertions of tlie back or flexor tendons of his legs. Thus in stalls formed as described, you will see the creature endeavouring to relieve himself by getting his toes down between the flags or stones (if the pavement will admit) with the heels resting upon the edges of them; and if the fastening to the head be long enough he will draw back still farther, until he can get his toes down into the drain-channel behind his stall, with the heels upon the opposite elevation of the drain. Proper pavement in your stable will help to alleviate a tendency towards what is called "clap of the back sinew."—See page 143.
The slope of an inch and a half or two inches is sufficient for purposes of drainage in paving stables; but if the drainage can be managed so as to allow of the flooring being made quite level, so much the better.
Should my reader be disposed to build stabling, he cannot do better than consult the very useful and practical work entitled 'Stouehenge, or the Horse in the Stable and in the Field.'
The horse being a gregarious animal, and much happier in society than alone, will, in the absence of company of his own species, make friends with the most sociable living neighbour he can find. A horse should not be left solitary if it can be avoided.
Dogs should never be kept in the stable with horses or be permitted to be their playfellows, on account of the noxious emissions from their excrement. Oats are better and more wholesome companions.
I do not profess to teach grooms their business, but to put masters on their guard against the common errors and malpractices of that class; and with a view to that end, two or three general rules are added which, a master would do well to enforce on a groom when hiring him, as binding, under pain of dismissal.
1. Never to doctor a horse himself, but to acquaint his master immediately with any accident, wound, or symptom of indisposition about the animal, that may come under his observation, and which, if in existence, ought not to fail to attract the attention of a careful, intelligent servant during constant handling of and attendance on his charge.
2. Always to exercise the horses in the place appointed by his master for the purpose, and never to canter or gallop them.
3. To stand by while a horse is having its shoes changed or removed, and see that any directions he may have received on the subject are carried out.
4. Never to clean a horse out of doors.
These rules are recommended under a just appreciation of that golden one, "Prevention is better than cure."
If the master is satisfied with an ill-groomed horse, nine-tenths of the grooms will be so likewise; therefore he may to a great extent blame himself if his bearer's dressing is neglected.
Grooms are especially fond of using water in cleaning the horse (though often rather careful how they use it with themselves, either inside or out) : it saves them trouble, to the great injury of the animal. The same predominating laziness which prompts them to use water for the removal of mud, &c, in preference to employing a dry wisp or brush for the purpose, forbids their exerting themselves to employ the proper means of drying the parts cleaned by wet. They will have recourse to any expedient to dry the skin rather than the legitimate one of friction. Over the body they will place cloths to soak up the wet; on the legs they will roll their favourite bandages. It is best, therefore, to forbid the use of water above the hoof for the purpose of cleaning—except with the mane and tail, which should be properly washed with soap and water occasionally.
When some severe work has been done, so as to occasion perspiration, the ears should not be more neglected than the rest of the body; and when they are dried by hand-rubbing and pulling, the horse will feel refreshed.
As already recommended, cleaning out of doors should be forbidden. If one could rely on the discretion of servants, cleaning might be done outside occasionally in fine weather; but licence on this score being once given, the probability is that your horse will be found shivering in the open air on some inclement day.
The groom always uses a picker in the process of washing and cleaning the feet, to dislodge all extraneous matter, stones, &c., that may have been picked up in the clefts of the frog and thereabouts; he also washes the foot with a long-haired brush. In dry weather, after heavy work, it is good to stop the fore feet with what is called "stopping" (cow-dung), which is not difficult to procure. Wet clay is sometimes used in