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Shoes Shoeing And The Foot








The foot, its diseases, and how to shoe it properly, is a subject much
discussed among horsemen. Nearly every farrier and blacksmith has a way
of his own for curing diseased feet, and shoeing. No matter how absurd
it may be, he will insist that it has merits superior to all others, and
it would be next to impossible to convince him of his error. Skillful
veterinarians now understand perfectly all the diseases peculiar to the
foot, and the means of effecting a cure. They understand, also, what
sort of shoe is needed for the feet of different animals. Latterly
number of shoes have been invented and patented, all professing to be
exactly what is wanted to relieve and cure diseased feet of all kinds.
One man has a shoe he calls concave, and says it will cure
contraction, corns, thrush, quarter-crack, toe-crack, &c., &c. But when
you come to examine it closely, you will find it nothing more than a
nicely dressed piece of iron, made almost in the shape of a half moon.
After a fair trial, however, it will be found of no more virtue in
curing diseases or relieving the animal than the ordinary shoe used by a
country smithy. Another inventive genius springs up and asserts that he
has discovered a shoe that will cure all sorts of diseased feet; and
brings at least a bushel basket full of letters from persons he declares
to be interested in the horse, confirming what he has said of the
virtues of his shoe. But a short trial of this wonderful shoe only goes
to show how little these persons understand the whole subject, and how
easy a matter it is to procure letters recommending what they have
invented.

Another has a specific method for shoeing, which is to cut away the
toe right in the center of the foot, cut away the bars on the inside of
the foot, cut and clean away all around on the inside of the hoof, then
to let the animal stand on a board floor, so that his feet would be in
the position a saucer would represent with one piece broken out at the
front and two at the back. This I consider the most inhuman method in
the art of shoeing. Turn this saucer upside down and see how little
pressure it would bear, and you will have some idea of the cruelty of
applying this specific method. Sometimes bar-shoes and other
contrivances are used, to keep the inside of the foot from coming down.
But why do this? Why not get at once a shoe adapted to the spreading of
the foot. Tyrell's shoe for this purpose is the best I have yet seen. We
have used it in the Government service for two years, and experience has
taught me that it has advantages that ought not to be overlooked. But
even this shoe may be used to disadvantage by ignorant hands. Indeed, in
the hands of a blacksmith who prefers his own way, some kinds of feet
may be just as badly injured by it as others are benefited. The United
States Army affords the largest field for gaining practical knowledge
concerning the diseases, especially of the feet, with which horses and
mules are afflicted. During the late war, when so little care was given
to animals in the field, when they were injured in every conceivable
manner, and by all sorts of accidents, the veterinary found a field for
study such as has never been opened before.

Experience has taught me, that common sense is one of the most essential
things in the treatment of a horse's foot. You must remember that
horses' feet differ as well as men's, and require different treatment,
especially in shoeing. You must shoe the foot according to its
peculiarity and demands, not according to any specific system of shoe.
Give the ground surface a level bearing, let the frog come to the
ground, and the weight of the mule rest on the frog as much as any other
part of the foot. If it project beyond the shoe, so much the better.
That is what it was made for, and to catch the weight on an elastic
principle. Never, under any circumstances, cut it away. Put two nails in
the shoe on each side, and both forward of the quarters, and one in the
toe, directly in front of the foot. Let those on the sides be an inch
apart, then you will be sure not to cut and tear the foot. Let the nails
and nail-holes be small, for they will then aid in saving the foot. It
will still further aid in saving it by letting the nails run well up
into the hoof, for that keeps the shoe steadier on the foot. The hoof is
just as thick to within an inch of the top, and is generally sounder,
and of a better substance, than it is at the bottom. Keep the first
reason for shoeing apparent in your mind always--that you only shoe your
mule because his feet will not stand the roads without it. And whenever
you can, shoe him with a shoe exactly the shape of his foot. Some
blacksmiths will insist on a shoe, and then cutting and shaping the foot
to it. The first or central surface of the hoof, made hard by the
animal's own peculiar way of traveling, indicates the manner in which he
should be shod. All the art in the world cannot improve this, for it is
the model prepared by nature. Let the shoes be as light as possible, and
without calks if it can be afforded, as the mule always travels unsteady
on them. The Goodenough shoe is far superior to the old calked shoe, and
will answer every purpose where holding is necessary. It is also good in
mountainous countries, and there is no danger of the animal calking
himself with it. I have carefully observed the different effect of
shoes, while with troops on the march. I accompanied the Seventh
Infantry, in 1858, in its march to Cedar Valley, in Utah, a distance of
fourteen hundred miles, and noticed that scarcely a man who wore
regulation shoes had a blister on his feet, while the civilians, who did
not, were continually falling out, and dropping to the rear, from the
effects of narrow and improper shoes and boots. The same is the case
with the animal. The foot must have something flat and broad to bear on.
The first care of those having charge of mules, should be to see that
their feet are kept in as near a natural state as possible. Then, if all
the laws of nature be observed, and strictly obeyed, the animal's feet
will last as long, and be as sound in his domestic state as he would be
in a state of nature.

The most ordinary observer will soon find that the outer portion or
covering of the mule's foot possesses very little animal life, and has
no sensibility, like the hair or covering of the body. Indeed, the foot
of the horse and mule is a dense block of horn, and must therefore be
influenced and governed by certain chemical laws, which control the
elements that come in contact with it. Hence it was that the feet of
these animals was made to bear on the hard ground, and to be wet
naturally every time the horse drank. Drought and heat will contract and
make hard and brittle the substance of which the feet is composed; while
on the other hand cooling and moisture will expand it, and render it
pliable and soft. Nature has provided everything necessary to preserve
and protect this foot, while the animal is in a natural state; but when
brought into domestic use, it requires the good sense of man, whose
servant he is, to artificially employ those means which nature has
provided, to keep it perfectly healthy.

When, then, the foot is in a healthy state, wet it at least twice a day;
and do not be content with merely throwing cold water on the outside,
for the foot takes in very little if any moisture through the wall. In
short, it absorbs moisture most through the frog and sole, particularly
in the region where the sole joins the wall. This, if covered by a tight
shoe, closes the medium, and prevents the proper supply. Horses that are
shod should be allowed to stand in moist places as much as possible. Use
clay or loam floors, especially if the horse has to stand much of his
time. Stone or brick is the next best, as the foot of the animal will
absorb moisture from either of these. Dry pine planks are the very
worst, because they attract moisture from the horse's foot. Where
animals have to stand idle much of the time, keep their feet well
stuffed with cow manure at night. That is the best and cheapest
preservative of the feet that you can use.





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