Drenching bit

antique horse bit

antique veterinary bit

Medicating horses has got so much easier – or so I tell myself as I scrape worming paste out of my hair. And I do wonder how effective a wormer is once it has disappeared up a horse’s left nostril.

I was fascinated to learn about an “Easy wormer” bit on one of the horse forums – it’s a plastic bit that you put into the horse’s mouth and then squeeze the wormer into the bit. I think there are other makes.

Sound familiar? The bit on the left is an antique drenching bit. Again, the bit is placed in the horse’s mouth & secured in place with the leather strap. Medication would be poured into the funnel, and the metal bar used to raise the animal’s head so that the liquid would pass back & be swallowed. Obviously a large lump of metal attached to a resisting horse is a bit more hazardous than the modern plastic version, but the principle’s the same.

In Mosemann’s Illustrated Guide there’s even a picture of a small version of one being used in a dog. This strikes me as a bit excessive, surely you can get a dog to swallow just about anything with nothing more sophisticated than a sausage?

Another antique tool for medicating horses was the balling gag. Medication would be moulded into ball-shaped pills. The wooden gag below would be put in the horse’s mouth.

a drenching gag

A tube would be passed through the hole in the middle of the gag, pointing towards the back of the poor horse’s throat. A pill would be placed in the free end of the tube, then one would blow down the tube (quite hard, I assume), delivering the pill to the back of the tongue. I have heard someone wondering what would happen if the horse blew back….


Rutters horse twitch

Old stable and veterinary equipment can be quite fascinating.
This is a Rutter’s twitch – it is made of two wooden bars, there are ridges carved around the circumference of each bar. The two pieces of wood are held together at one end by iron loops.

Rutters horse twitch

This tool was used to quieten horses when they didn’t want to cooperate with a procedure. One of the wooden bars would be placed on each side of the animal’s upper lip / muzzle & the bars would be strapped together at their free ends, squeezing the lip. Theoretically the use of a twitch promotes the production of endorphins in the horse’s body, making it calmer . Personally I am rather doubtful about this theory and suspect that twitches worked more by providing the alternative distraction of pain.

Rutters horse twitch
Rutters horse twitch

Despite this rather dubious use the Rutter’s twitch is an interesting item. In common with many 19th Century tools it is beautifully made from an attractive wood (probably oak) , the metal parts are handforged.
However, I think I’ll be sticking to modern sedatives when I need them.