Theophilactus, Patriarch of Constantinople, kept above 2000 horses, and was so intent, and earnest in feeding them, that he gave them pistachios, pineapples, palm-fruit, raisins, dried-figs, and all of them the choicest, moistened with perfumed wine and mixed with saffron, cinnamon, and other costly drug; in this excess going beyond the Emperor himself, who laid in the manger for his horse, called the winged, raisins, and kernels instead of barley. … In Petrarch’s time there lived one in Italy who doted so on his sick horse, that he spread under him a silk bed, with a golden pillow. And when he himself was laid fast by the gout that he could not stir, and must be ruled by the physicians laws, yet would he needs be carried by his servants or be laid on another horse, and taking his Physicians with him twice, or thrice a day visited his sick horse, and sit down by him sighing, and troubled, stroking him, and murmuring comfort to him. The mighty King of Narfinga had a horse thought to be of such a value for the incredible plenty of jewels, wherewith it was laden, that he was worth one of our cities. In such esteem is the horse among most nations…
Caesar’s [horses] besieged by Scipio ate duck meat, rinsed in fresh water. Pompey’s horses at Dyrrachium in a siege ate leaves stripped from trees, and reed-roots. In Senega, that dry ful, fitches, and mixed. In Thrace by Strymon, thistleleaves. In Parthia the herb hippax. In Tartary boughs, and bark of trees, and roots struck out of the earth with their hoofs. In Aden they eat fish, there being plenty there. And dried fish in Golconda in Persia; and among the Gedrosians, the Celts, Macedonians, Lydians, and Paeons inhabiting the Prasian Lake. The Arabs feed them twice a day with camel’s milk. In spring with tender herbs. They love to drink water whether troubled, or clear, running, or standing, muddy, or other. Some, to make them mettled, give them wine; especially if lean, or old beer of oats, or corn, say some.
Extracts from The Natural History of the Four-Footed Beasts by Johannes Johnston (this English translation, 1675).
Image from The Horse in History by Basil Tozer. Shows the Duke of Schonberg. Image “after a painting by Sir Godfrey Knelser”.