A Home Remedy Tale: Bloat in Horses


Percherons Ellie and Chi

When my wife and I began farming, we learned to raise calves by buying newborns at the local livestock auction (now closed) in Orleans, Vermont. Dealing with illness, various injuries, and scours (calf diarrhea), we routinely consulted our vet or supplier for prepackaged electrolytes and other needs. In time we learned to make our own, much less costly, concoction for treating scours -- salt, baking soda, yogurt, an egg; maybe some molasses if we had to use a feeding tube. We also raised sheep, pigs, horses, and cows -- there are home remedies, old-time methods, and innovative contraptions to surmount all form of husbandry hurdle, unique to different breeds and circumstances. But generally they share a demand to “make do” either by spending less money, saving time, or both.

While we are very fond of our vet, we try to do what we can ourselves, and often we learn from experienced farmers. We were blessed while we worked our farm in Barton, Vermont with a neighbor named Henry LaBrecque, a retired dairy farmer who was always pleased to stop by and teach me how to make hay, fix a machine, winch cedar, or overcome a milking problem.

One of our draft horses suffered a case of bloat. Reflexively, I phoned Henry (instead of the vet). With no hesitation, he began to recite an old home remedy. “Oh, let’s see now….” he said:

2 tablespoons turpentine
2 tablespoons black pepper
2 tablespoons ginger
½ cup milk….

When I heard “turpentine” I paused in my napkin scribbling. Suddenly Henry’s “remedy” sounded like animal abuse -- I had no intention of pumping turpentine into my horse. I politely thanked Henry for his counsel, and engaged in some discussion of the weather I think.

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