Above is an interesting photo from 1913 at the Marion, Iowa Fair.  You can bet they were using leg paints on this one as they are now.   Leg paints have been very commonly used on racehorses for eons and may perform widely varied therapeutic actions.  Probably the most common are the counter-irritant  variety that can contain varying amounts and combinations of  iodine, mercury, cedar oil, camphor, oil of wormwood, oil of organum, mustard seed oil, croton oil, etc.  These extracts are mostly carried in ethanol and/or DMSO bases and are designed to stimulate blood circulation when painted on the affected region. The only problem is,  it doesn't stimulate a return mechanism.  Its a one-way street if you  only stimulate blood flow without pumping it out.  Used by itself on a horse at rest is not particularly good.  You will get an accumulation of blood and fluid from this type of stimulation and stagnation could likely occur opening your horse up to adhesion formation.  

     What is known as a "working" leg paint  is useful as you employ  these types of light blisters while at the same time exercising your horse. The paint will stimulate blood  & lymph flow and the simultaneous daily exercise will stimulate the pumping away of the blood, lymph, toxins.   This is a combination that should be present when using a counterirritant!  I tend to like iodine in my counterirritant leg paints and there are all types of iodine formulas.  Rite's knee & hock paint is a pretty useful formula which I have used it for years.   I would stay away from the severe blisters that particularly contain cedar oil and mercury.   I have seen and used my share of these while working for some old timers,  but I have long felt that this degree of blistering does little therapeutic good.  This is one aspect of our racing history where our forefathers probably went wrong.   One should avoid tissue destruction that is seen in these types of blister applications.  If you have to use a neck cradle on your horse as is often the custom when using a severe blister then something is inherently wrong with the treatment!  Same holds true for using a hot firing iron.  Even though our old time horsemen swore by the effectiveness of firing a horse,  it is just another out-cropping of the human tendency to believe "more is better".   I never fired a horse in my life that I trained,  nor used a severe blister.   I  feel I missed nothing in not using them.  I always  preferred a light blister that only would affect the skin by stimulating some crusty scurf formation after a few days of application---nothing more severe.  In most cases,  I don't think you will need to apply a counterirritant paint to most leg injures,  but every case is different and at times,  one may want to stimulate an increased blood supply to the injured ligament.  If so, then use a counterirritant.

     I do like leg paints,  but I prefer herbal leg paints that stimulate healing.  There is  none better than comfrey!  Comfrey is an amazing plant that has gotten a very bad rap in the last 50 years which is at odds of its hundreds of years of dedicated use by herbalists of many ages.   A comfrey leg paint is very healing and if you are dealing with an open wound,  it can actually heal the outer surface faster than one should,  leaving an infection inside.  This is one of the dangers of using comfrey.   It will heal the skin over faster than it should preventing drainage.   In suspensory and flexor tendon injuries,  one does not have to worry about this aspect.  You do with open wounds.   A simple formula for a comfrey leg paint can be seen below.  I would paint  the bad suspensory or flexor tendons every day using a toothbrush type of applicator.   It is an amazing healing herb! 

     A colloidal silver,  castor oil,  DMSO leg paint is another formula very healing,  and I  particularly recommend this when using HVPC therapy which I discuss on my
electro-medicine page.  The use of colloidal silver in a leg paint allows silver ions to diffuse into the injured part by both the action of DMSO and the application of a low voltage current which HVPC can do to the injured area.  This procedure puts into effect Dr. Becker's research on stimulating regeneration.   You can read in-depth about his work on my arthritic joint page.  He found that if silver ions are present along with a low level electrical charge,  the silver ions associate with cells in the injured region,  particularly fibroblast & epithelial cells, resulting in de-differentiation of these cells into embryonic cell types.  It is these stem cells that can aid in regeneration of joints, ligaments, tendons.   I would suggest painting the damaged suspensory with a colloidal silver & DMSO  gel or lubricant to take the place of the normal conducive electrode lubricant.  This would place silver ions over the injury site and with the aid of HVPC and DMSO, help drive the silver ions into the suspensory aiding  in healing.  You can read about Colloidal silver on my CS web-page and make a simple CS paint by simply mixing a 50:50 solution of DMSO and Colloidal silver.   Paint it on liberally before applying both electrodes of your HVPC unit.   
A Comfrey Leg Paint

     For a simple formula for a  paint which anyone can easily make for tendon and ligament damage, I would use chopped comfrey root or leaf and chopped Solomon's Seal root or a combination of the two in a DMSO menstruum (base). It is always best and cheapest to harvest the fresh herb outside, but if you do not have access to the fresh, it is acceptable to buy the best quality dried herb from a supply house.  Comfrey will be the easiest and cheapest herb to find with Solomon's Seal, less so.   I normally buy it by the pound along with DMSO by the gallon.  I use common mason canning quart jars with lids and if you own a kitchen food vacuum system, that will help in producing a superior leg paint. 

     First,  I would avoid buying the powder forms of either herb but favor the chopped product. Take a quart mason jar and fill it approximately 3/4 full with the dried herb in whatever combination you desire.  Next add Pure DMSO to the mason jar filled with herb and top it off about an inch above the dry herb level.   At this time, if you have a vacuum food attachment, pump air out of the mason jar. This aids in better "maceration" (extraction through soaking) of your herb in the DMSO.  If not, just seal up the jar with mason lids and store in a dark place for 2-4 weeks, shaking now and then.  If you need the paint NOW for an injured horse, it is acceptable to wait a few days then draw off enough to begin treatment but keep the bulk of your tincture soaking the full 2-4 weeks for maximum potency.

Note:  that during the first few days of starting your tincture, you may have to add a bit more DMSO to maintain the menstruum level about an inch above the dried herb. DMSO will soak into the herb and lower the level.  Also, if you use the root of Comfrey, it will have a tendency to gel in your mason jar. The best way to combat this is to add a little water along with  shaking it well day after day. The comfey leaf is less likely to jell.

    After the appropriate time has elapsed,  filter off the finished tincture from the used-up herb by using a coffee filter.  You may want to invest in a common kitchen "ricer" that was used back 50 or more years ago to help squeeze out the remaining tincture from the moist herb before discarding. This will often pay for itself in due time!  Store the finished tincture in a amber bottle protecting it from sunlight. Paint on the injured tendon at least 1-2 times a day.
Mason jar with Comfrey in it plus jug of DMSO ready to pour.
Mason jar with DMSO added to comfrey and Foodsaver vacuum device in place to remove air for better maceration (extraction).
A cheap antique kitchen aid (ricer) that can be picked up to help with pressing out extra menstruum from the comfrey after 2-4 weeks.
Rite's Knee & Hock Paint
(28 oz)

Bichloride of Mercury   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .       4  grams
Potassium iodide         .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     30  grams
Iodide crystals               .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     60  grams
Ethanol alcohol             .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .    240  cc
Ether                              .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .    480  cc

Dissolve the bichloride of mercury and potassium iodide in just enough hot water to blend them.  Then add the other ingredients.  Apply the paint with a tooth brush like applicator. Apply once daily.  A great counterirritant paint for the hocks and knees!  First,  clip hair off of lower 2/3 of knee and sides of hocks where you plan to paint Rite's.  Paint it every day until you get a nice scurf and then quite for a few days and begin again.  This paint was often used as standard operating procedure on all two year olds or older horses suspected of having a joint problem. It can be a good diagnostic tool when painted on a joint, too. If one gets undue reaction (edema of the joint capsule) then joint pathology can be expected to exist ever more certainly.

In this day and age, Mercury in any form may be very hard to come by.  I really suspect this formula can be quite useful without any Mercury in it at all and I would not let a lack of Mercury stop me from mixing up a formula. Potassium iodide and Iodine crystals are much easier to find for purchase (ebay should carry both).   Ether may be another problem chemical to find.  One may be able to use common engine starter fluid as a substitute presuming one can buy it in liquid form (not spray), if it contains a large amount of ether in it? As far as ethanol, I would go with Everclear that can be bought at many liquor stores in USA or a high proof of vodka or something similar.

Regeneration Paint employed with HVPC

    This is the formula for the above mentioned colloidal silver paint that I would advise to be used with a HVPC unit for regeneration of tissue.  However, this paint is also excellent in combating all infections and can be quite useful by itself in this regard.  You can add or subtract the castor oil from this formula, but I find castor oil very useful and can add a nuisance to healing that is not there without it.   I would avoid buying colloidal silver at the local health store as  it is very expensive and far more concentrated than you actually need.  A colloidal silver solution of  10 ppm is quite adequate.   You can make your own for pennies if you have a Colloidal Silver generator.  I would not have a racing barn without one in its tack room! You can read about colloidal silver generators at my CS web-page.  If you are electronically knowledgeable, you can make one for a few bucks or buy a commercial unit for in the US$100-200 range.

1)  Colloidal silver (10 ppm)  .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .  100 ml

2)  Castor oil  .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .     20 ml

3)  DMSO  .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .    .     80 ml
Dr Christopher's  
Bone, Flesh, Cartilage formula

    One of my herbal mentors was Dr. Christopher and he was famous for his BFC formula that performed some miraculous healings in his long career.  It is an amazing regeneration formula, but a bit time consuming to prepare, but well worth the effort if you so feel inclined.

1)   Comfrey root.......................6 parts

2)   Oak bark............................6 parts

3)   Gravel root..........................3 parts

4)   Mullein................................3 parts

5)   Lobelia................................1 part

6)   Wormwood...........................2 parts

7)   Marshmallow root...................3 parts

8)   scullcap..............................1 part

This should be taken internally as well as applied topically.   A cheesecloth compress can be soaked and applied to the injured part., then wrap with plastic and wrap with an ace bandage.


Use a stainless steel pot only. Never use aluminum! Use distilled water. Put one gallon of distilled water in the pot. Add the pre-mixed herbs. Use an 8 oz cup of herb mixture per gallon. Let this mixture soak and set overnight or a few days in the frig. The longer you let it sit , the stronger it will be.

Heat the tea for 20 minutes, but do not boil. Strain. Then low heat to half volume. Now ready for use. Store in glass bottle in frig.