Alaundo's Library

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The work contained on the following pages is the property and copyright of Steve Allen, and is used here with permission.

The Farrier
The Specialist that Horses Around

By Steve Allen

A farrier is a blacksmith that specializes in shoeing horses and is an expert at properly fitting horseshoes. Farriers possess the skills of a blacksmith, veterinarian, and an animal psychologist. Found mostly in large cities with a large equine population, or in a rural area, a farrier’s sole trade is shoeing and caring for animals. Although mostly a male profession, due to the physical demands of the occupation, there are a few female farriers. In order to be able to work with horses, farriers have the following proficiencies: animal handling, equine anatomy, and hoof pathology. The farrier must not only know how to shoe animals but must also be familiar with the tasks that these animals perform, and must have some knowledge of animal behavior. The average farrier spends about six months learning the basics of the trade, followed by an apprenticeship under a master farrier lasting anywhere from one to three years. After the apprenticeship, the farrier may apply for his master certification, usually granted by a guild of farriers.


Horse Shoes

Horseshoes were first made of iron around 481 AD. The earliest surviving example of a horseshoe dates from the sixth century BC. Early primitive horseshoes were worn like a boot around the hoof and were made of leather or another soft material. These early leather shoes were sometimes stuffed with straw or grass for insulation and padding. Some time later, soft metals were used to make horseshoes. The Romans used a leather boot with a metal plate affixed to the sole of the boot to protect the hooves of the horse. Later, nails were driven through holes in the horseshoe, fastening the horseshoe, in a manner similar to today. Rumors persist that precious metals like silver and gold have been made into horseshoes as well. A rumor claims that George Washington had his horse shod with horseshoes made of gold upon his inauguration.

There are several different types and shapes of horseshoes used on animals. Most campaigns, set in an early pre-industrial period would lack the abilities to manufacture some of the modern types of horseshoes. Modern factories produce horseshoes made of aluminum alloy for racing, hard rubber with traction grooves for police work, and keg horseshoes, which a modern farrier uses. These early cultures also lack the abilities to produce the manufactured horseshoes used by modern farriers. It is assumed that the type of horseshoe used in most fantasy campaigns is made of a hand-forged iron; case hardened, and attached using hand made iron nails.

A general blacksmith or a farrier puts on horseshoes. Farriers shoe horses, mules, and oxen although the latter two animals cost slightly more to shoe than a horse due the additional work required. Some farriers will not work upon very large animals. Some may still shoe the largest of animals but will charge extra, usually four to six gp depending upon the region. A set of horseshoes applied by an inexperienced general blacksmith may not fit as well as a set applied by a farrier, and some may even damage the animal. There is a 5% chance that horseshoes put on by an inexperienced general blacksmith will either damage the animal or are cast very easily by the horse after a few days. A set of shoes put on by a farrier has a +1 bonus to resist wear and loss but cost from two to three gp. Normally it takes about an hour for a farrier or blacksmith to put on horseshoes when reusing the old horseshoes. Returning all four used shoes to a blacksmith or farrier will save about 3 sp while shoeing the mount. When making new horseshoes the time required to manufacture and mount the new horseshoes takes from 10 to 12 hours per horse.

A mount with horseshoes does an additional one to two points of damage on successful kick attacks. Almost all riding mounts when bought, unless otherwise stated, lack horseshoes. Horseshoes will last eight to ten weeks under heavy abuse such as suffered by adventurer’s mounts. Under light use, a pair of horseshoes can last up to six months.

Cast (lost) horseshoes are a fact for shod animals. Cast horseshoes happen eventually due to wear, the growth of the hoof, and abuse such as that suffered from fighting. Oxen and large draft animals usually cast horseshoes when under a heavy load, most often in soft or muddy terrain. A rider may notice a cast horseshoe by rolling a one or two on 1d6. A successful roll indicates the rider has noticed or heard the cast shoe (or a lose horseshoe) and may retrieve the shoe (or stop before a horseshoe is cast). Magical horseshoes may be cast just like regular shoes, unless they are specifically enchanted against loss. Roll 1d6 when riding on cobblestone streets in towns, once a week. A roll of one indicates the shoe has fallen off. In mountainous or hilly regions, roll 1d6 once per week; a roll of a one or two indicates a shoe has fallen off. Other light riding requires a roll of a 1d8 once per week, with a one indicating a shoe was cast. To determine which shoe was cast, roll 1d4. One being the front right shoe and proceeding in a clockwise direction. The loss of one shoe requires either its immediate replacement (usually impossible), or the removal of the other three horseshoes. The mount must not be ridden on hard surfaces nor carry a heavy burden. An uncared-for horse lacking horseshoes has a 25% chance of going lame, reducing its movement by a two-thirds. For each additional week of abuse, there is another 25% chance of permanently damaging the animal, requiring the mount to be euthanized.

Some DMs may allow the use of calks, especially in draft animals and warhorses. DMs allowing calks will also have to decide if the calks will do additional damage when the horse kicks. Calks are sharp projections from the horseshoe allowing better traction in certain terrain similar to crampons for boots. A horse wearing calks, must not be ridden hard for long periods, and must be treated with extra care. Horseshoes with calks wear out much faster and are much more expensive, usually from eight to twelve gp. Calks apply extra stress to the nails securing the horseshoe and are cast more frequently. There are three types of calks, described in the following paragraphs.

A blade calk is a sharp wedge of iron welded or riveted to the rim of the horseshoe. These wedges (usually three) sink into the soft earth and provide better traction for pulling heavy loads. These are commonly used during the winter, or in very muddy terrain. Blade calks apply the most stress upon the nails fastening the horseshoes and suffer a –2 penalty to loss.

Cone calks are simple, small metal cones that project from the rim of the horseshoe. Cone calks provide better traction than a regular horseshoe and are simple to make. In some campaigns, cone calks are commonly used on the horses rode by the police of some cities. The cone calks are not as prone to loss as blade calks, but still suffer a –1 penalty to loss.

Heel calks are the most common, formed by turning the ends of the horseshoe towards the ground and squaring the edges. This type of calk applies excellent traction, are the simplest to make, and the least prone to loss, suffering normal chances to loss. Heel calks are most often used upon draft animals and especially large animals.


Care of the Horse

Until the advent of veterinary medicine, (the first veterinary school was established in 1762) the farrier dispensed all medical aid to horses. Farriers are adept at curing some of the more common ailments in animals and are well paid for such veterinarian-like care. The very skill required of a farrier can cure a lame horse and save the life of a very sick horse.

To keep a horse in prime condition, some things need to be done regularly. A neglected horse will not perform well, and the DM should decide when the health of the horse is jeopardized. When the horse becomes ill, apply ever-increasing penalties to the movement rate and carrying capacity of the horse. An easy way to do this is to use the encumbrance tables found on page 78 of the PHB. For minor illnesses, reduce the mount’s carrying capacity and base movement by 1/3 and for serious illnesses, reduce the carrying capacity and base movement by 2/3.

When in a pen, remove the manure daily (about 50 pounds per horse) to reduce flies and other pests. When at pasture, the horse must have sufficient room to exercise, and the pasture must be large enough so that the manure can decompose so that the horses will not ingest manure from the grass. Good drainage is a must, as standing water causes insect problems. A pasture should be about three acres per horse kept within; anything smaller requires frequent manure removal.


Floating Teeth

A horse has 42 teeth (by comparison a human has 32) each approximately three inches long which grow approximately an eighth of an inch per year. As the horse ages the roots of the teeth become shorter, and by the age of thirty, a horse even begins to lose teeth. An experienced person can tell the approximate age and health of a horse by examining its teeth.

Once a year the teeth must be floated or filed, to ensure proper nutrition is derived from the food eaten. A horse chews with a grinding action, which causes sharp edges to form upon the edges of the teeth. The sharp edges cut into the inside of the mouth, causing food to be swallowed whole, which can lead to colic, an obstruction of the intestine. In extreme cases the teeth interfere with fitting the bit and can even be painful when the horse is turned. A farrier can perform this service for about two to three sp.

The DM can decide certain proficiencies include the knowledge of floating teeth, such as animal husbandry. In this case, a character with this proficiency could care for his horse’s teeth himself. This knowledge is also applicable to other herd beasts that require teeth maintenance such as camels and lamas.


Hoof Care and Trimming

Horses should have their feet inspected and picked daily. Maintaining a regular routine of foot care prevents injury, illness and loss of horseshoes. A +1 bonus applies to the chance of a character hearing or noticing a cast (or lose) horseshoe, with regular care of the horse’s feet. During inspection, if the rider notices a loose or damaged shoe, he can take the horse to a farrier, a blacksmith, or tighten or remove the shoe (with the proper tools).Trimming of the feet is required every five to eight weeks, usually done by a farrier. Trimming involves removing the shoes and running a rasp over the edge of the hoof wall to remove the new growth and prevent the hoof from overgrowing the horseshoe. A diligent horse owner willing to learn can soon trim the hooves of his mount with a few lessons from a farrier, but still should allow the farrier to replace the shoes. Hooves grow about three inches a year in healthy and young animals, slightly less in older or sick animals. Trimming costs between two and three sp and will help prevent cast horseshoes and some of the more common hoof injuries such as sand cracks. Some farriers give a slight price reduction to shoe a horse, if it is determined that the horse needs new shoes during trimming.


Common Horse Ailments

Horses are usually very hardy and are not usually prone to ailments and disease. However, when treated harshly and abused or left in a pen with unsanitary conditions, horses will develop several illnesses. The illnesses listed below are the most common suffered by horses. The rarest illnesses, or those requiring extensive veterinary care, are beyond the scope of this article. Giving a treasured animal a disease such as hydrophobia, (an incurable, horrible disease that requires euthanizing the animal) should be avoided in most circumstances.

The DM could decide that special equines (pegasi, paladin warhorses, etc.) are immune to common ailments. However, the DM can come up with magical ailments to afflict these animals.


Colic, a common malady, was not properly diagnosed and cured until the early 20th century, and most horses suffering colic until then either healed, or died. The term colic refers to any illness that causes the animal intestinal suffering. Changes in feed, travel, parasites, or ingested inedible objects can cause colic. Usually, most cases of colic are not life threatening and the horse will heal itself in time. Rarely, ingested objects, such as small rocks lodge themselves in the intestines, which can cause twisted intestines and bloat, both life threatening illnesses. Signs of mild colic include stretching but not eating, stretching as if to urinate frequently, rubbing, looking at, and biting of the flanks, and frequent lying down. Severe colic signs include pawing, pacing, lying down and getting up frequently, rolling, sweating and difficulty breathing.

Poisonous Plants

A horse’s pasture must be kept clear of plants that will harm them; otherwise the animal may ingest poisonous foliage and become ill. Ragwort and members of the buttercup flower family cause severe intestinal distress, but a horse will not eat them unless the pasture is poor, partially because horses are not attracted to the color yellow. English yew trees are poisonous to horses and will cause the animal to die, unless purged of the poison in time. Saint John’s wort causes photosensitivity in horses and can lead to terrible rashes and sunburns, ultimately resulting in melanoma. Foxglove and monkshood, cause the horse to be violently ill, although usually not fatally. Creeping charlie (also known as ground ivy, gill over the ground, or glechoma) has a toxic substance in the leaves. Horses usually find it unpalatable after tasting it, but the plant causes sweating, salivation, and difficulty breathing.

A horse that ingested poisonous plants needs purging immediately and then treated for poison. The workings and shape of a horse’s stomach make it difficult to empty and impossible for the horse to vomit, as other species do.


A fungal or bacterial infection of the feet usually caused by inadequate foot care or unsanitary conditions. Thrush is characterized by a dark and foul-smelling discharge from the feet.

Curing thrush requires the feet to be cleansed thoroughly, and a knife used to slice away the rotting portions of the hoof. Apply a poultice of boiled turnips, a few drops of carbolic acid, and a handful of charcoal to the hoof until the disease heals. A clean pasture and rest greatly speed the recovery of the horse from thrush. Curing a horse of thrush costs from three to five gp plus stabling and feed consumed while the horse healed, usually two to three weeks.


Also known as laminitis, this ailment most frequently caused by overeating of very rich food (such as barley, wheat, corn, molasses, sugar cane, or rye grass), which results in the painful inflammation and swelling of the feet. The overindulgence of rich food causes the intestinal chemical balance to shift. The fermenting starch in the stomach kills the intestinal flora, which releases poisonous substances called endotoxins. These endotoxins are released into the bloodstream, causing damage throughout the horse’s body. The large amount of endotoxins cause excessive clotting and overload the liver and spleen. Just how exactly this condition results in founder is unknown, but evidence suggests that the endotoxins damage the critical basal cells of the hoof, the basement membrane supporting the hoof, or the intricate blood supply in the hoof. Shock, stress, or severe damage to the hoofs can also cause founder. Founder can also result when a horse in poor condition (out of shape and not use to heavy exertion) is driven at high speed or forced to perform heavy pulling. Failure to expel the placenta after birth causes founder in mares, but this condition is rare.

Horses suffering from founder, move at one-third their normal movement rate, and are unable and unwilling to carry any load. Horses suffering from founder are usually foul-tempered and will bite and kick any person that approaches.  This disease usually starts in one hoof and then progresses to the other hooves. The horse favors the first affected hoof; placing additional stress upon the other hoofs which aids the spread of founder to the other hooves. In extreme cases all four hooves are affected and the horse can no longer stand.

Curing founder requires the removal of the horseshoe from the injured foot in an attempt to reduce the amount of jarring and concussion the injured hoof suffers. Frequently applying cold water to the hoof reduces swelling and in some extreme cases the horse is placed in an elaborate sling to reduce the weight placed upon the hooves. The horse should eventually heal, however in extreme cases with terrible suppuration of the hoof; destroying the animal becomes necessary.

Sabotaging an enemy’s horse by purposefully overfeeding it requires several weeks and easy access to the horse. This abuse may not always result in founder but may cause the horse to lose condition by becoming obese, or cause some mild indigestion, causing the horse to be corralled until healed.


Caused by an insect infestation (fleas which carry a microscopic parasite), which causes terrible itching and scabbing, mange looks and feels worse than it is. Common to squalid areas, mange is easily curable. Sometimes horses that have had their tails docked will develop mange since they have lost their main weapon against insects. Unless the animal is badly neglected, no horse should develop mange. Animals with mange rub against everything attempting to scratch the awful itch.

Curing mange starts with washing the horse with soap and water, as warm as the horse can stand, and then rub the horse with an ointment comprised of: oil of tar, sulfur, and linseed oil. This uncommon ointment costs six sp for enough to do one medium riding horse.


This infection of the skin appears mainly upon the back of a horse is caused by bacteria which thrive upon a dirty, warm and moist hide, most often in the fall and winter. The horse develops patches of hair that have a “staring” pattern and the horse will shy away when these patches are tugged upon. The scabs follow the runoff pattern that the rainwater takes as it pours off the horse. Within these patches was a hard crust and scabs. When one of these scabs is removed, moist pink tender flesh is revealed. This condition is sometimes mistaken for hives, but thankfully does not spread from one horse to another.

Curing rainrot requires a good scrubbing followed by intense grooming. Some farriers also recommend treating the infected area with tea tree oil, but the rarity of the oil makes its use financially prohibitive. The horse will not take kindly to the rough treatment required to remove all of the infection. The horse will shy away, bite and rear because the flesh that is being scrubbed will be raw. After a good scrubbing and grooming, protect the horse from rain, damp and keep the horse especially clean for a few weeks until the infection heals. Without treatment, this condition usually clears up during the summer when the weather is normally hot and dry.

Dew Poisoning               

This chemical burn commonly around the legs and sometimes the face, looks worse than it is. The affected area oozes pus which dries into thick, painful crusts. This burn is caused by the legs of the horse coming into contact with the juices of stinging nettles, sneezeweed, and spurge (also known as gopher purge). Sometimes while at pasture the animal rubs its face against these irritating plants and receives a burn on the face, or worse in the eyes.

This injury usually requires washing the area with a mild soap and warm water. If the eyes are affected, the animal will have to be restrained and the infected eye flushed with cool clean water. The burn should heal in about five days, but the horse will still be fit to be ridden, unless the eyes were affected. As a precaution against infection on the legs, the area can be covered with a poultice.

Lice and Other Insects               

A common ailment of herd animals, lice is also one of the easiest to remove. Prevalent in the winter and early spring, lice accumulate under mats of hair, and around the ears and body openings. Lice are parasites that are more of nuisance than a danger. The afflicted animal itches terribly, and will rub against any surface, scratching itself. The lice will infest the rider and his equipment, causing misery for both. Suffering a lice infestation while wearing heavy armor is truly hell on earth. There are two types of lice: biting lice and sucking lice. Sucking lice cause blood loss while biting lice cause severe itching.

Curing lice requires a strong tea made from tobacco, which is then applied, to the affected animal. The average horse has about 35 square feet of skin, so a large amount of tobacco (about ten pounds), and hot water are going to be needed. This bath will also purge the rider and his equipment of lice although the tea may stain some materials and leaves an odd smell. A farrier will apply this treatment for about 10 gp, and most farriers stock the needed tobacco, which they will sell for about 4 gp. However, a horse owner that intends to treat his animal himself needs a large amount of water and tobacco  and a source of heat to boil the water. The horse needs to be rinsed thoroughly to remove all of the tobacco residue, which can be done by putting the horse in a river. Preventing insect infestation and repelling the pests can be done several ways. Applying lavender oil to the horse repels most insects, but the oil can be difficult and costly to obtain. In the stable, plant African marigolds (if available) and leave cut onions nearby to repel flies. Judicious application of such spells as the fourth-level priest spell repel insects, can relieve a suffering horse from these pests.

Flying insects such as mites, ticks, bot flies, midges and blackflies can also infest a horse usually near the ears. Bot flies are a summer time pest that leave pin-head sized yellow eggs in clusters usually on the horse’s legs. Bot flies are a particular hazard when the horse bites or licks the egg clusters, ingesting some eggs, where they invade the digestive system. Horses suffering from bot fly larvae in the intestine, may lose weight and could develop colic. The above lice treatment is effective at removing these pests if done frequently enough.  Ticks are not only unpleasant, they do pose some health risks to the rider as well, although these diseases are rare. A malaria-like illness, babesiosis, causes fatigue, depression, fever, malaria-like chills, cramping, and muscular pain. Rabbit fever, or tularemia, has varying degrees of severity, from mild flu-like, to severe causing headaches, fever, queasiness, weakness, and enlarged lymph nodes. Another very rare disease in modern times where bathing is common place, tick paralysis, is not actually a disease but an illness caused by an entrenched, expectant female tick. Usually effecting animals, this disease could effect people wearing armor constantly who fail to undress and bathe regularly. Tick paralysis symptoms begin in two to seven days, starting with weakness in the legs, progressing upwards through the body, and can effect the breathing of the victim. Occasionally life threatening, and can end in coma or death, tick paralysis is easily cured; remove the tick and the symptoms will cease within a few days afterwards. In game terms, these diseases are quickly cured by the use of such spells as cure disease, and in a game could be a tool for the DM to create an encounter with an itinerant healer.

Other flying insects such as horn flies, deer and horse flies, mosquitoes, and gnats are difficult to keep from the animal. These insects do not infest the horse, but are mere nuisances. The rider often suffers more from these pests than the horse. As an aside, the DM can also use the giant versions of normal insects which often pester horses, which can bring into play a whole new area of experiences dealing with these giant pests.

An alternate magical cure for a horse suffering from any parasitic insect infestation is available to players in campaigns that the DM allows the use of cantrips. A cantrip such as exterminate applied several times upon an infested horse will remove the insect infestation.

Puncture Wounds

One of the most common injuries to horses, particularly their hoofs, puncture wounds can be serious. Warhorses commonly suffer puncture wounds in battle and all horses are susceptible to hoof injury from sharp objects like caltrops, and sharp rocks. In cities, glass, nails and other hazards may cause injuries not only to the hooves but also when the horse rubs against structures.

Curing puncture wounds to the body requires normal healing procedures. Curing puncture wounds to the hoofs requires a boot wrapped around the foot with a linseed poultice. The shoe upon an injured hoof must be removed, until the hoof is healed, and the horse can not be ridden until the hoof heals.

Exercise-induced Pulmonary Hemorrhaging

This terrible sounding common ailment of Thoroughbred race horses, means that blood drips from a horse’s nostrils after running at peak output, much like a bloody nose in a human. This illness is hereditary and does not occur in all horses. While visually distressing to the rider, the horse appears not much worse for the wear and the bleeding stops in about three hours. This ailment is caused as the horse’s intestines swing forward, along with the diaphragm compressing the lungs and, along with increased blood pressure, causes some lung capillaries to burst.

There is no known cure for this ailment (even with modern medicine), and aside from the unpleasant sight of a horse dripping blood from its nostrils, causes no permanent damage to the horse. A rider may seek a cure for his horse, and may encounter several quacks and charlatans who profess to heal the ailment. However, the next time the horse runs at peak output, he will drip blood from the nostrils again.

Obesity and Lack of Exercise               

A horse left in the pasture for too long or stabled without adequate exercise will put on several pounds of excess weight. A hazard of adventurer’s mounts used to a high level of activity that are stabled until needed again without proper exercise. The extra weight carried by the horse is hard upon the legs and causes the horse to become winded easily. In hot weather, the excess weight makes it harder for the horse to stay cool. A fit horse has well-defined muscles, a shiny coat and a calm but alert demeanor. The ribs can be felt but not easily seen. Tapping upon the forearm reveals that the fascia (the fibrous bands and sheets within and around the muscles) is hard, not soft as in a horse in poor condition.

Whether the horse has been laid up due to injury or just stored while the owner is away, a gradual reconditioning to return it to a fit state is required. The length of reconditioning required is determined by:

    1. The length of time the horse was laid up – without work, the horse will retain some conditioning for about six weeks. To return the horse to fitness, figure one week of training for every two weeks the horse has been laid up.
    2. The horse’s general condition – whether too fat or too thin, or weakened by disease or injury, the horse requires careful handling. Add another two to three weeks to the fitness program to return the horse to a state where he can handle a more rigorous workout.
    3. The amount of turnout the horse enjoys – horses turned out into large pastures with several companions will travel about 10 miles per day. This helps maintain conditioning and will reduce the length of the fitness program by one week.


Magically Curing the Ailing Horse

Horses have a similar composition as humans so some potions and spells that effect humans will work upon a horse. This adds new ground for experimentation by players attempting to heal an injured horse, and adds variety to long distance traveling by adding a new dimension to experience. Players will have their characters hoard magical healing potions and scrolls, now not only to heal themselves but also to heal their mounts. A new dimension of role-playing opens when players describe how they are going to get an injured horse to ingest a magical potion or respond when a scroll does not quite work out the way that they envisioned it. 

Spells such as cure disease immediately cure most horse ailments, and when followed by a heal spell or other magical curative, the horse returns to full health immediately. To protect his mount when traveling, the wise adventurer has a priest cast the fourth-level spell repel insects upon his horse to prevent common pests such as ticks, lice, fleas, and flies from bothering his mount. A wise adventurer also carries several heal scrolls and potions of healing in his saddlebags to care for his mount.

Potion curatives work great upon horses, if you can get the horse to drink the potion! Forcing a sick or injured horse to drink a potion often requires several people and some special equipment. To make the task of forcing a horse to drink a potion easier, have a priest cast the third-level spell hold animal upon the horse. Curatives such as potions of healing, extra-healing, and elixirs of health work upon horses, and will heal injuries as normal. However, some magical potions have no effect upon horses such as potions of super-heroism. Some magical potions such as potions of giant strength and potions of strength have a limited effect upon horses, only raising the strength (reflected as maximum carrying capacity in game terms) to the maximum level for the breed, for the duration period of the potion. Some potions such as a potion of speed work normally upon a horse, but the aging side effects are debilitating to a horse. The DM should carefully consider the effects of a potion upon a horse. I recommend that the DM keep a journal to document the effects of each potion for consistency later in the game if the same situation arises again.


New Non-Weapon Proficiencies

Horse Masseuse: 1 slot Wisdom –1 - this rare skill requires a great amount of strength and skill. It takes about five to seven hours to fully massage a horse. A horse masseuse is able to reduce swelling, aching joints and helps to increase the blood flow to injured areas. The horse masseuse does not work cheaply and in some places, the cost for the services of a good horse masseuse can exceed the price of a new horse. Average price per session in an area where this procedure is common is 60 gp.

In game mechanics, the masseuse adds a point of healing per treatment to an injured horse.

Horse acupuncturist: 3 slots Wisdom –2 – this extremely rare skill requires several years of study and an intricate knowledge of the equine physiology. The skilled acupuncturist knows the proper points for inserting the needles, the proper depth to insert the needles, and the proper time for the treatment. This skill is virtually unknown in Western lands and comes from the Orient, where it is an ancient art. The acupuncturist believes that the body is a road map of energy conduits called meridians or channels. A damaged or blocked channel leads to disease. By applying acupuncture, the blocked channels are reopened to restore normal flow.

Horse acupuncture can bring immediate and dramatic relief to a horse suffering pain and discomfort. When skillfully done, acupuncture can help restore nerve functions. The treatment does not regenerate damaged nerves, but awakens or aids the body to reroute the nerve circuits. About 20% of horses refuse acupuncture treatment, and are considered “needle shy.” This treatment does not heal, and most of the time acupuncture treats the symptoms, not the underlying cause. Symptoms may reoccur under stress if the treatments stop to soon or the cause of the problem was not fixed.

There are two types of acupuncture used:

    1. Simple needling: Inserting fine, solid metal needles which remain in place for as long as 20 to 30 minutes. Sometimes these needles are twirled while in place in the patient.
    2. Moxibustion: Also known as “moxa”, uses a smoldering wad of rolled herb, which is applied to the acupuncture point until the heat becomes unbearable, at which time it is removed. The heat is reapplied and removed several times. The treatment usually takes about 15 to 20 times for each point. Another form of this type of acupuncture is used to apply heat to an inserted acupuncture needle.

The treatments are required three times per week for one month tapering off to once a week as healing progresses. The average cost per session in an area where acupuncture is common, is 90 gp.

Hoof pathology: 3 slots, Wisdom –2 – this skill requires an intimate knowledge of animals’ hoofs, and methods of correcting them. This skill covers all hoofed animals that are normally shod such as oxen, mules, and horses, but also applies to foot care for other domesticated live stock, such as goats and pigs.

Equine anatomy – 2 slots, Wisdom –1 – this proficiency requires an intimate knowledge of the body of all the equine species. Usually this knowledge is learned from dissecting corpses and attending a school or college. The time required to learn this proficiency can take as long as a year.


And Finally...

Using these ideas, the DM can broaden the interaction between character and mount, and provide opportunities for role-play as characters seek NPCs to heal ailing horses. A note of caution to the DM when applying injuries and illnesses to horses; do not over do it. Do not strike every animal in the party at once with a crippling disease. Use caution when giving especially treasured animals like a Paladin’s warhorse a disease. By applying a slight illness to the animal, the DM can cause the characters to stop and search for a NPC with the knowledge of curing the animal, since most characters are not able to cure the animal themselves. The DM can place possible adventure hooks with the NPC curing the animal, or the characters may have to remain within the area while the animal is treated.


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  19. Malone, John Williams. The 125 Most Asked Questions About Horses and The Answers.  William Morrow and Company, Inc. New York 1994.
  20. Marder, Amy. “Acupuncture for Animals.” Prevention, June 1995 47.6:129 – 132.
  21. Monkeyshines on Health and Science. History of Veterinary Medicine. Monkeyshines Publications, 1996.
  22. Morgan, Jenny. Herbs For Horses. Kenilworth Press, Great Britain. 1993, Reprinted 1994.
  23. Pascoe, Elaine. “Got a Shoe Loose?” Practical Horseman September 1998 26.9: 92 - 93.
  24. Pavord, Tony and Marcy Pavord. The Complete Equine Veterinary Manual: A Comprehensive and Instant Guide to Equine Health. David and Charles 1997.
  25. Prinz, Laurie. “Arresting Laminitis.” Equus, October 1996 #228: 47 - 58.
  26. Self, Hilary Page. Modern Horse Herbal. Kenilworth Press, Addington Buckinham, England, 1997.
  27. Shanley, Mike and Maria Shanley. “More Advice on Draft Horses.” Countryside and Small Stock Journal, September-October 1997 81.5: 36 - 37.
  28. Smith, Karen. “Return to Fitness.” Equus, May 1999 #259: 69 – 78.
  29. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Edition #5, 1993.
  30. Wilson, Dru. “College Offers Course in Centuries-Old Craft: Horseshoeing.” Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service October 30, 1998.
  31. Wolf, Janine L. “Friend to Horses, Friend to Hoofs.” New York Times, 12 October 1997:14CN

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