Horse Doctors Way Back When…

Last week something fun and wonderful happened to me, way sooner than I expected it to. The release of Redeeming Daisy, the second inspirational novella about the Martin family of Hearts Crossing Ranch. So soon on the heels of Marrying Mattie, my sensual Western Historical released two weeks ago, I found myself not only in Seventh Heaven but also realizing that both heroes, some 130 years apart,  are horse doctors. So I reckoned a trip down Vet History Lane was a good topic for today. And anybody who comments gets in a name-draw for a pdf. copy of Redeeming Daisy.

Okay. Long ago, the caretakers of the horses of the ancient Roman army were called veterinarii. The term itself derives from the Latin root for beast of burden.  The first veterinary school was founded in Lyon, France, in 1762.

But in colonial America, words like veterinarian, horse doctor, or even animal doctor weren’t part of the vocabulary. (In fact, fifty years ago or so, vet care for house pets was often considered frivolous.)   For the colonists, animal disease was surrounded by mystery, superstition and ignorance—pretty much the same as for human ailments. Simple cures were largely unknown, because even  physicians had little information on bacteria and anatomy.  Often a sick horse was tended by a herdsman or farrier (blacksmith) with roots, herbs, and often witchcraft.  The prevailing and unfortunate creed was—the more it hurt, the better it must heal. This mentally just breaks my heart.

By the early 1800’s, professional veterinarians, most of them graduates of the  London Veterinary College founded in 1791, began migrating to America’s cities. Without suitable veterinary schools here, young men apprenticed with these professionals and went on to become animal doctors. There were also medical doctors who used their knowledge of humans to treat animals, and other doctors who served both “man and beast.”


On the frontier, most horse doctors were self-taught, like Call Hackett in Marrying Mattie. He has studied science at university level and extensively educates himself by reading treatises by such animal scientists as William Youatt. He performs necropsies when he can in a little lab he has set up in a shed on his land. Pike Martin in Redeeming Daisy is, of course, a fully accredited twenty-first century large animal vet.



Back in the 1800’s, books and pamphlets on horse medicine helped spread knowledge. The first surgical anesthesia upon a horse was performed in London in 1847 and helped advance animal surgery in America. Prior, surgical techniques were rarely attempted on horses: forcible restraint and terrible anguish were just not pleasant for anybody, especially the animal.  I get chills just imagining such torture on a senient creature who has no intellectual concept of  “Hey, big horsie. This is gonna hurt like a son of a gun, but it’s downright good for you.”


Dr. Isaiah Michener of Pennsylvania, whose education credentials are unknown, started a practice in 1836 and contributed many articles to Philadelphia periodicals and country newspapers. His criticism of the funds spent “to build theatres, railroads and canals” while the ravages of livestock diseases were neglected began to spread. Hence, the first veterinary association was launched in Philadelphia in 1854.

The development of veterinary schools soon followed. New York College of Veterinary Surgeons, chartered in 1857 at New York University is generally claimed to be the first veterinary college established in America. Prompted by funding from the 1862 Morrill Land Grant Act as well as concerns over post-Civil War animal disease epidemics,   Iowa State College (now University)   offered  its first animal science  class in 1872 and officially founded its veterinary school in 1879.    


 By the late 19th century, a collective of institutions, agricultural organizations, and scientific periodicals united veterinarians in a common cause.  The U.S. Veterinary Medical Association was founded in 1863, later renamed American Veterinary Medical association in 1898.


One fun fact:  In 1912, Chandler, Arizona was established by and named for Dr. A.J. Chandler, a veterinarian who graduated with honors in 1882 from Montreal Veterinary College at McGill University. He left a successful practice in Detroit to come to Arizona in 1887 to set health standards for the growing cattle industry. Creating a network of canals and electric pumps to draw ground water, he transformed his ranch into a green empire in an arid land. He was able to raise enough grain and alfalfa on 300 acres to feed 2,000 head of cattle and several hundred sheep.

Dr. M. Phyllis Lose, VMD, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School in 1957, the first female equine vet, or horse doctor, in the United States.


The following picture doesn’t really have a thing to do with veterinary science but it’s such a fun picture since I’m talking about horses today. It’s my grampa, a minister, on his way to court my gramma in Kansas about 1915. His horse was named Babe, and he just loved her.  Gramma, too.    


Any veterinarian  stories today?

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A California beach girl, I love cowboys and happy-ever-afters. My firefighter hubby and I enjoy travel, our two little grandsons, country music, McDonald's iced coffee, and volunteering at the local horse rescue. I was thrilled last year to receive the CTRR Award at Coffeetime Romance for Sanctuary, my tribute to my cancer-survin' hubby!

44 thoughts on “Horse Doctors Way Back When…”

  1. All of this is so interesting…especially the last wonderful pic. How fortunate you are to have such a sentimental photo.

    My bachelors’ degree is in microbiology so most of my friends were trying to get into medical school or vet school. When the new vet school opened up at NC State in the 1985, headlines were made because the incoming class was 50% female! One of the youngest in the country, the school is ranked #5 and beloved pets have been flown in from all over the country for dramatic procedures. Love bragging about that.

    The school has grown but is still surrrounded by fields filled with cows, horses, goats, and, get this, llamas!

    Females were still encouraged to go into “small” animal medicine because of their lack of strength. Fortunately that is changing.

    And I have to mention we must remember that many human medications have been discovered through animal medicine…and visa versa.

    Peace, Julie

  2. Thanks for another interesting and fun post. Other than the fact that we use vets, a lot, with all the animals we have ever had and still have, no vet stories. I just really appreciate them. Of all the vets we have had all over the country, the best and the worst we have had have been women.

  3. Howdy, Tanya! That’s wonderful about your back-to-back releases.

    One of the cool things about living in Lexington is being surrounded by horses. The Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital is just a few miles away. It’s huge and world famous.

  4. Congratulations on the new releases, Tanya. Beautiful covers.
    Really learned a lot from your blog today. It’s a keeper for future reference. Thanks for the great information.
    The vet who sees my kitties is a lovely woman. She’d make a great heroine model.

  5. Congratulations on another new release! You are so blessed to have that photo of your grandfather.

    Both my grandfather and I worked for vets when we were young. He loved horses and particularly harness racing. I only found out recently that when he was courting my grandmother, he had quite a reputation as a buggy racer and his horse was reportedly the fastest around. Wish I had known that when he was still with us.

  6. Great covers and post. Can’t wait to read your books. I love, love, love vet stories, and there’s not enough of them.

  7. A few years back, mother and I went to a garage sale. I found a copy of “The Practical Stock Doctor”. I looked it up on the internet to find it was published in 1905, although my copy doesn’t start until page 43 so I have no way of telling if it is a first edition or not. The pages crumble at a touch, the words on the spine are worn and the cover is in bad shape. I have read some of the cures and they shocked me. It makes a great refrence book for early day vet services and healing.

  8. Hi Julie, thanks for sharing the wonderful news about North Carolia State! ANd 50% female, wow. I’ve got a vision in my head with all those lovely animals in it…I think llamas are terrific.

    I agree, we share our world with animals. What a helpful treasure they are. Good to see you here, Julie!

  9. Our first vet (after we married and got our first cat and dog) was a lady, and I loved the example she was for our kids. In fact, our daughter thought about becoming a vet–until the day she was about ten and wanted to watch Dr. Kelly express some anal glands. That was it for her.

    Always good to see you in Wildflower Junction, Patricia. Thanks for posting.

  10. Hi Vicki, I also have seen pix of where you live and get a tad jealous. All those glorious horses nearby. Thanks for the note about Rood and Riddle. I’m sure I’ll use that tidbit somehow.

    In Redeeming Daisy, sadly I know little about horse medicine, so I had Pike “substitute” at a pet vet clinic when Daisy brings in her very ill black Labrador. Oh, sparks fly.

  11. hi Elizabeth, I think vets are incredible heroes. Imagine patients who can’t exactly tell you where it hurts or what is wrong. How brilliant they must be.

    We actually lost both our black Labs a few months apart a summer ago, hence Daisy’s dog’s ailment is based on real life, sadly. I miss my babies so much even though they had relatively long lives. House feels so empty.

  12. Aw Judy, what a terrific post about your grandfather. I know what you mean, how cool it is when you learn something special about somebody when they’re young. My grampa died when I was only a year old, so only pictures let him live for me. And that one with horse and buggy just blew me away. Thank fo stopping by today!

  13. Hi Pat, I love ’em too. So I gotta mention the James Herriott series starting with All Creatures Great and Small. He’s a country vet in the 1930’s totally out of his city element in the Yorkshire Dales of England. Highly recommended!

    Thanks for posting today, filly sister! oxoxox

  14. Tanya, I think animals add so much to a story, be it historical or contemporary. There’s just something special and sweet about animals. They’re so trusting and love you no matter what. Even animals who’ve been horribly abused still have a deep capacity to love. Thanks for the info on early vets. It was a field that was slow to catch hold. I’m amazed that it took so long. I guess most people just did the best they could to take care of their own animals.

    Congratulations on the release of your new contemporary! Love the cover. In fact, you get some of the most beautiful covers. Wishing you lots of success.

  15. I forgot to say that I think the picture of your grampa is so sweet. I’m sure he was all a-twitter inside. How fortunate that someone decided to preserve that memory with a photo and took it. It’s really special.

  16. Hi Linda, thanks as always for your wonderful words. Nicola Martinez, ed in chief at White Rose Publishing, is also an incredible artist. She has deigned all my covers and they are always glorious. I gotta admit…I think Redeeming Daisy is my favorite, hands down LOL. I never wanted “people” before but this time I did, and it’s just my personal vision come to life.

    I too just adore animals. We’re going dog-less for a while, having lost our two Labs just 8 months apart, and we’re still in mourning. Fortunately there’s a precious Golden next door who is our adopted pup…she’s over here a lot.

    My late gramma is one of my heroes…I never got to know Grampa (he died in a car wreck when I was 1) but I know he must have been very special for her to have picked him. oxoox

  17. Hi Tanya — fascinating post as usual. And many congratulations on your new Inspy release, as well! As you know, I love your western historicals. I haven’t read much Inspirational, but for you, I will try it :).

  18. Thanks, Helen. I got several of yours recently in my Kindle…but finding time to read these days is, well, there’s not a lot of it LOL. Thanks for posting today. Your support means the world. oxoxo

  19. Tanya, I love reading words you write. I’ll bet you could make the phone book sound interesting! I loved, loved, loved Marrying Minda and Marrying Mattie. I cannot wait to read your latest one now out, Redeeming Daisy. I hope to get it soon–if not, I’ll just purchase it myself! I don’t wait well. Good luck on your success and your great fortune lately. I love your releases coming so quickly. Hope it continues.

  20. Hi Brenda, your kind and supportive words always feel so good. I do love being this busy but it’s rattling, too. I’m trying to carve time to send out another newsletter.

    It’s so good to see you here! And hey, your name might get drawn out of the Stetson. I do it at midnight PDT and will post the winner for tomorrow. oxoxo Thanks so much for posting today.

  21. Whoa, there, Tanya girl, great post, but I gotta pick a bone about the 50 years ago or so that vet care for house pets was “frivolous.” Um, my we rest heavily on the “or so” aspect of that statement. That was 1960. (I was married and already had 2 or my 3 kids!)

    We spent a fortune at the vet for special canned dog food and medication for our little Beagle, Trudy, who was allergic to Bermuda grass, or all things. I’d get her cleared up during the winter and come spring she’d itch and scratch something awful, and lose her hair by the handfuls. Prior to 1960, I knew of quite a few vets all over the LA basin making big bucks.

    As for any veterinary tales from my life, I got a million of ’em. LOL Anyone here ever lived an a ranch and withered a goat? Well, we didn’t do the deed ourselves, but I took our little Ocho (we paid 8 bucks for him, consequently his name.LOL) to Dr. Miller down the road for that procedure.

    Anyone know what withering is? It’s cutting off a billy goat’s hornes while still only an inch or so long. Holy mackerel, Andy! I had to hold him in my arms, and idgit that I am I’d worn a “white” sweatshirt. BLOOD!!!

    Needless to say little Ocho bleeted something awful, and Doc Miller says, “Not to worry, it doesn’t hurt him much.”

    Excuse ME? How the heck does he know? He’s just wielded those pincers with deft precision, but if there’s blood, don’t tell me it doesn’t hurt, you ignat! Of course, I didn’t call him an ignat, but I bit the tip of my tongue HARD not to. LOL

    Great post, Tanya. You’ve given me some “threads” to pursue with questions I’ve had about horse care in 1898-1900. Thanks!

  22. hi tanya!
    congrats on the two books!
    what is a novella? like under so many pages or what?
    love the picture of your grandpa–how sweet 🙂

    i was pre-vet for a bit…but then i worked for a vet and decided that loving animals was not a good reason to pursue the career–so i do foster care instead
    i had real problems letting other people decided what to do with their dog (can’t afford care, euthanize for behavior, etc….) i would have been bankrupt as a vet giving away free care 🙂
    plus i wouldn’t have wanted to deal with the responsibility
    we do however take care of a lot of things here on the farm ourselves with animals

    oh it makes me sad to read the part about hurting more being better

    thanks for sharing!

  23. Have you all read “All Creatures Great and Small” and it’s sequels by James Herriot?
    I absolutely loved those books.
    He worked as a vet for quite a few years before they discovered penicillin and they had such whacky cures. Then the penicillin came and I remember Herriot said something like, “It was like watching a miracle.”
    I love your horse doctor hero idea. It sounds great.

  24. Tanya, congratulations again on both releases. And this is a wonderful topic. Thanks for all the information!

    Loved your grandfather’s picture. My great-grandmother’s buggy horse was also named Babe. According to GGG, Babe was the best cart horse ever. 😀

  25. Calm down, Joyce LOL. My mom took our family cat to the vet, too. If you re-read, I said “often” not always. During my college days in the 70’s I visited a friend’s farm where a little kitten was dying of distemper and they just shrugged it off. At that time, most rural folks didn’t spay-neuter cats and dogs, either. I’m sure things are differenty now.

    Besides if you’re a Californian, you know our State is always on the cutting edge of stuff nobody else takes seriously. 🙂

    Thanks for stopping by today.

  26. Hi Tabitha, II so hear you. The groomer who used to take care of our Labs (RIP Marley 8/08 and and Seau 5/09) started out as a vet tech with our vet, but got too heartbroken. So she started a grooming business so she could still work with dogs.

    Our sweet Marl came down with the sudden cancer I used as a plot point in Redeeming Daisy. Our vet fortunately has a philosophy of not going to extreme measures, and that helped in our decision to “let go” of our big-boy Seau who was becoming very disabled by hip displasia. (We adopted him with this condition which can be corrected in puppyhood.) We spared no expense on medications for his ailment the last few years of his life. Finally we knew it was time.

    Boo-hoo. I miss them so much. I still see their “shadows” in the yard. I know, that’s dumb. Thanks for posting today.

  27. Hi Mary, oh, yes, the Herriott series is one of my favorites. He’s not just a terrific story teller but a talented writer. What a mix of humor and pathos. I always had his books on my Freshman classes’ reading lists and kids would absolutely burst out laughing during Silent Read. But I wept a bunch, too. I remember all the weird ways in his books the farmers would deal with mastitis. YIKES.

    Penicillin is definitely one major reason–along with indoor plumbing–that I don’t want to spend more than a day going back in time. Thanks for posting~oxoxox

  28. Hi Tracy, oh, too wonderful about the two Babes. Thanks so much for stopping by today. BTW, I just read your Touch of Texas and yoqza, did I ever enjoy it. Jake was such a terrific hero and I loved that Rachel kept all the critters inside the house during the blizzard because they didn’t have a barn. Wonderful story.

  29. Tanya, you must have done hours of research to get such good information. I don’t have vet stories and enjoyed reading yours. I love your granpa’s picture. So cute. Best of luck with both books.

  30. hi Deb, kitties are so blessed with longevity! We had a little calico nutball, Cat Ballou, who decided to go live with George and Helen, who live behind us. We were okay with it, having all those Labs, but she often came over the fence to see us. Anyway, Helen passed a few years ago and we were so glad George had “somebody.” Anyway, Ballou just passed…she was 19! He took great care of her, even ear surgery. She had her eccentricities, but she was a fun little kitty. Thanks for posting today!

  31. Hi Tanya,

    As always, your post is so informative and I really enjoyed it. I know zilch about vets “back in the day”–great pic of your Grandpa, too.

    Congratulations on TWO fantastic releases so close. I know you are thrilled to death. And congrats on your 6-book deal you just signed, too.


  32. This was such an interesting article and reminds me when doctors made house calls and got paid with a chicken, fresh garden goodies and so on. Now I don’t recall the pay in such things but sure heard enough stories about it. I do recall house calls as I was very sick when I was young and it was a daily or at least weekly visit for a doctor to come and see how I was doing. Your books sounds so good and I am glad to meet you and your books. Babe must be a common name for a horse as my father in law had one called Babe too. susan L.

  33. Tanya,

    I love the cover of your book. I loved the article. Congrats on all your books I cannot wait to get them in my hands.

    The only vet story I have is when I rescued an injured hawk It’s wing was broke. The vet helped me to get it back so it could fly and I got to release it

    Walk in harmony,

  34. Terrific blog today, Tanya…God bless all the vets that take care of our beloved fur babies.

    FYI…Marrying Minda was the 1st book I downloaded on my brand new Kindle last week, and all of your others are listed in my wish list 🙂

  35. hi Cheryl, I know what a busy day you had todya…thanks so much for stopping off at Wildflower Junction. Thanks as always for your support and friendship. Two releases was something, that’s for sure. oxoxox

  36. Hi Susan, so good to see you here. Your comment reminds me of Call Hackett’s frustration when his horse doctorin’ gets paid in food and barter that he doesn’t need…he needs cash money now that he’s taking on a wife!

    House call? What’s that LOL? I’m lucky if I can get my doc’s advice nurse on the phone LOL. I so appreciate you posting today.

  37. Hi Melinda, good to see you here. I am a hawk-lover. There’s a sparrow hawk that looms around here sometimes. I have a bird feeder…and boy, when he’s winging around, those little birdies are dead silent and hiding like crazy.

  38. Oh, Melissa, I am truly honored. I hope you like the story LOL. I too am totally in love with my Kindle.

    Veterinarians and all those who care for animals deserve a special place in heaven, that’s for sure. I totally love and appreciate rescue groups, too. Thanks for stopping by today! oxoxo

  39. I have two cats about 4-5 lbs each who have coccidia and my vet won’t write prescription so that I can get it on line. I know my 2 cats have this because I gave the kittens away and the lady I gave them to later saw they had diarrhea. she took them to my vet who charged her $150 for all kinds of tests then gave her the medicine. can you help me?

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