In 1835, the writer of the following account was a witness to a scene that would have been unthinkable on any other day, save perhaps a cavalry charge or a stampede. The crowd of men from all parts of the country thronged Horncastle street and the adjoining horse bazaar so densely that it was a pandemonium.
In the days when horse-buying was an important business, a spavined horse was one that had suffered from osteoarthritis in its hock joints (spavins). The condition was painful for the animal and often rendered it lame. The word has also been used to describe other things that are out of date or past their prime, such as a man who is old and spavined.
When a horse is spavined, it is so lame in its hocks that it is useless for riding or work. The condition is caused by a gradual wearing away of the joint cartilage that cushions the bone at the end of the hock. This is a common problem with horses that are used for heavy work, such as pulling carriages or plowing fields. Today, doctors sometimes refer to the condition as bone spavin, although it is more commonly called hock lameness or hock deformities. Depending on the severity of the condition, the horse may need to be shod with different types of shoes to help relieve the pain. This article is based on material from the United Kingdom National Archives, the British Library, and the National Historical Society.