Of the staggers

An eighteenth century view of staggers in horses

source: Henry Bracken
Farriery Improved: or a Compleat Treatise upon the Art of Farriery 5th ed London, 1745
starts p88, 12 pages long

Diseases affecting a horse’s head are called staggers, and are similar to apoplexy and vertigo in humans. Bleeding should be the first resort for such brain diseases, which are caused by overfullness. Horses that stand for a long time and are not given exercise are especially prone to staggers. Brain fever and staggers may have similar symptoms, but the cure is the same. The amount of blood taken from the horse is more important than whether or not blood is let from the affected side. Some four or five quarts of bleeding is the most effective measure, if the horse has the strength for this.

There are special balls for staggers, but they can become a more expensive treatment than the price of the horse. However, cinnabar balls, which include quicksilver, can be given to a good horse. A glyster of senna and common salt is also a useful remedy, with a powder can be made with Afara Bacca herb, which can be blown into the horse’s nostrils to ease the head through a watery discharge. There are a number of other recipes for curing staggers, but they tend to be based on superstition rather than an evaluation of why they might be useful, based on medicine, with help from chemistry, natural philosophy, mechanics and mathematics.

There are reports of remedies for staggers, such as putting cloves, rice, ginger, garlic and other objects into horses’ ears, and this practice has driven some horses mad. Putting quicksilver in horses’ ears is also a common remedy among farriers. German farriers are reported to whisper into horses’ ears and turn them round three times. However three is no more magic a number than four, and English methods are more effective.