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A day in the life of a Victorian tack room

“Work started in the stables at 5am in the summer and 6am in the winter so that the head coachman, after having a late breakfast at 10am, could report at the big house to receive the orders of the day, confident in the knowledge that he could turn out well-groomed horses and immaculate carriages, without a speck of dirt inside or outside, within twenty minutes of his master’s or mistress’s command.

Before he had his breakfast the stables had to be cleaned, the horse had to be groomed and fed, and the carriages and harnesses had to be polished. The coachman usually groomed the carriage horses, while the groom looked after the riding horses. Each horse was thoroughly cleaned from the tip of its ears to the soles of its feet to free its skin of all accumulated scurf, dirt and sweat.

The ears were gently massaged for a few minutes until they were warm and then wiped out with a damp sponge; the hooves were washed and the dirt picked out before they were anointed in Victorian times with a mixture of oil and lamp black in the mistaken belief that it would increase the growth of the horn.

The whole process took about one-and-a-half hours and at the end of it the master expected the coat to be so clean that it would not “soil a cambric handkerchief”."

Excerpt from 'Carriages at Eight' by Frank E Huggett
Published by Charles Scribner's Sons, 1979
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