Horses on Muddy Creek

From horse liniment to sore shoulders caused by horse collars, good farmers had to know how to treat their horses


| April 1999



Horse team

Horse team

Even today, a good farmer must be a jack of all trades: a horticulturalist, an electrician, a bookkeeper and a banker. But in the early days on Muddy Creek, it was necessary to wear even more hats. The farmer had to be a blacksmith, a wheelwright, a tinsmith and even a veterinarian. Every farmer had a copy of the standard treatise on Diseases of the Horse, a three-inch-thick volume that contained the standard treatment for every conceivable ailment with which horses, mules and other livestock might be afflicted. 

In the spring, after a long winter's layoff from hard work, horses were inclined toward sore shoulders. Oftentimes the collars were ill-fitted, like clothing that was handed down to the young'uns from the elders. Horse collars were no exception: they cost money, hard money, and none were thrown away, but were passed on to younger workers. (Seems I have heard that line before.)

Sometimes the pads were not adjusted as they should have been, and care had to be taken that the horse was properly conditioned. Most importantly, the operator had to know his charges and be aware of problems before they arose.

The old reliable Stock Book listed the following as a very good liniment for sore shoulders: "Melt 2 ounces of beef suet in an equal amount of raw linseed oil, add 2 ounces of beeswax and rosin, stir and cook until well mixed, then pour the melted liquid into 1-ounce salve boxes and cool. This will keep a long time, and is a sure cure for sore shoulders." 

Speaking of horse liniment: Old man Catterton was reputed to have made the best horse liniment in the country. Most of the neighbors were discreet enough not to talk about what was in it, but would rather talk about the results of using the product. His praises were sung far and wide. Even Uncle Walter admitted that "The best 'stuff' I've found since I left Memphis" came from right up there on Red Hill.

In fact, some of the menfolk would have need to visit him several times a week to replenish their stock. You see, in the spring, there was always a great need for spring tonic. The more affluent ladies of the area resorted to Perunia or Lydia Pinkham's Vegetable Elictra, but the men preferred old man Catterton's brew, er, product. Sorry.