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Advice To Blacksmiths








Let me enjoin you, for humanity's sake, that when you first undertake to
shoe a young animal, you will not forget the value of kind treatment.
Keep its head turned away from the glaring fire, the clinking anvil,
&c., &c. Let the man whom he has been accustomed to, the groom or owner,
stand at his head, and talk to him kindly. When you approach him for the
first time, let it be without those implements you are to use in his
shoeing. Speak to him gently, then take up his foot. If he refuse to let
you do this, let the person having him in charge do it. A young animal
will allow this with a person he is accustomed to, when he will repel a
stranger. By treating him kindly you can make him understand what is
wanted; by abusing him you will only frighten him into obstinacy. When
you have got the animal under perfect subjection, examine the foot
carefully, and you will find the heels, at the back part of the frog,
entirely free from that member, which is soft and spongy. When the foot
is down, resting on the ground, grasp the heels in your strong hand,
press them inwards towards the frog, and you will immediately find that
they will yield. You will then see that what yields so easily to the
mere pressure of the hand will expand and spread out when the weight of
the body is thrown on it. This should give you an idea of what you have
to do in shoeing that foot, and your practical knowledge should stand
you well in an argument with any of those learned professors, who
declare the foot of the mule does not expand or contract. In truth it is
one of its necessary conditions. After being a long time badly shod,
nearly or all of this necessary principle of the foot will be lost. You
should therefore study to preserve it. And here let me give you what
little aid experience has enabled me to do. You will observe the ground
surface of the foot, no matter how high the arch may be, to be at least
half an inch wide, and sometimes more than an inch, with the heels
spread out at the outside quarter. Do not cut away this important brace.
It is as necessary to the heel of the animal, to guard him against
lateral motion, on which the whole of the above structure depends, as
the toes are to the human being. Curve the outside of the shoe nearly to
fit the foot, and you will find the inside heel a little straighter,
especially if the animal be narrow-breasted, and the feet stand close
together. Nature has provided this safeguard to prevent its striking the
opposite leg. After the shoe is prepared to fit the foot, as I have
before described, rasp the bottom level--it will be found nearly so. Do
not put a knife to the sole or the frog. The sole of the foot, remember,
is its life, and the frog its defender. In punching the shoe, two
nail-holes on a side, on a foot like this, are sufficient to hold on a
shoe. Three may be used, if set in their proper places, without injury
to the foot. Practice will teach you that any more nailing than this is
unnecessary. I have used two nails on a side on an animal with not the
best of a foot, and very high action, and he has worn them entirely out
without throwing either of them off. Previous to punching the shoe,
observe the grain of the foot. It will be seen that the fibres of the
hoof run from the top of the foot, or coronary border, towards the toe,
in most feet, at an angle of about forty-five degrees. It will be plain,
then, that if the nails are driven with the grain of the horn, they will
drive much easier, and hold better, and be less liable to cut and crack
the fibers.

Another benefit can be derived from this process of nailing. When the
foot comes to the ground, the nails act as a brace to keep the foot from
slipping forward off the shoe. This renders that very ingenious foot
destroyer, the toe-clip, unnecessary. Then, in punching the shoe, hold
the top of the pritchell toward the heel of the shoe, so as to get the
hole in the shoe on an angle with the grain of the hoof. Punch the holes
large enough, so that the nails will not bind in the shoe, nor require
unnecessary hammering or bruising of the foot to get them up to their
proper place. Prepare the nails well, point them thin and narrow; and,
as I have said before, use as small a nail as possible.

When you proceed to nail on the shoe, take a slight hold at the bottom,
so as to be sure that the nail starts in the wall of the foot instead of
the sole. Let it come out as high up as possible. You need not be afraid
of pricking with nails set in this way, as the wall of the foot is as
thick, until you get within half an inch of the top, as it is where you
set the nail. Nails driven in this way injure the feet less, hold on
longer, and are stronger than when driven in any other way. If you have
any doubt of this, test it in this manner: when you take off an old shoe
to set a new one, and cut the clinches (which should be done in all
cases), you will find the old nail and the clinches not started up; and
in drawing the nail out you will also find the foot not slipped or
cracked; and that the horn binds the nail until it is entirely drawn
out. Indeed, I have known the hole to almost close as the nail left it.

Set the two front nails well towards the toe, so as not to be more than
two inches apart when measured across the bottom of the foot. Let the
next two divide the distance from that to the heel, so as to leave from
two to two and a half inches free of nails, as the form of the foot may
allow. Lastly, before nailing on the shoe, and while it is cold on the
anvil, strike the surface that comes next to the foot on the outside, a
few blows with the hammer, right across the heels, and see also that the
outside of the heels is a shade lowest, so that the animal in throwing
his weight upon them will spread out, and not pinch in his feet.






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