Draft Horses Shoeing
Draft Horses Shoeing is a sine qua non for a horse of whatever description that must possess sound and serviceable feet. Good feet are more frequently preserved by having too little done to them in the way of paring and rasping than by the reverse.
Mr. Fleming’s remarks on this head are worthy of the highest estimation by every owner: ‘ The sole, frog, and bars must on no account or under any conditions —unless those of a pathological nature—be interfered with by knife or rasp. I have already shown the necessity there exists for preserving these important parts of the plantar surface in their full natural strength. As certainly as they are interfered with and their substance reduced, so surely will the hoof be injured. They will support the contact of hard, soft, rugged, or even sharp bodies if allowed to escape the terrible drawing-knife ; while hot or cold, wet, or dry weather has little or no influence on the interior of the foot or on the tender horn if man does not step in to beautify them by robbing them of their protection, perhaps merely to please the fancy of an ignorant groom or coachman.’*
As the growth of horn is stimulated by contact with the soil, it is undesirable for a colt to be shod so long as his labor is confined to field operations. With rare exceptions, the protection of a shoe is only required when the land is unduly hard or when road work is required. The feet of colts grazed upon high and dry lands are usually maintained in proper form and proportion through the wear occasioned by search after food, but the very slight wearing effects of soft marshes or straw yards is insufficient to prevent overgrowth, and in such cases the hoofs must be reduced to their normal shape and size by a judicious rasping of the ground surface of the crust. Except under skilled direction, no other part of the feet but the plantar edge of the wall should be pared or rasped.
The adjustment of shoes to the feet of farm horses when road work is the exception is a simple matter, yet one demanding some attention to prevent mutilation of important structures by the blacksmith’s knife and rasp, and to preserve the aplomb of the limbs. The lower or ground edge of the hoof is the only portion of the foot requiring protection from the shoe; the frog, bars, sole, and outer surface of the wall ought invariably to be left intact.
The growth downwards of the horny hoof in a shod foot necessitates removal of the shoes, and their readjustment when the foot has ‘grown long.’ Inattention to frequent removal of the shoes of farm horses is very common, and is prejudicial to the conservation of good feet, and to the limbs, which become altered in position by the growth of the anterior portions of the hoof exceeding that of the heels. The shoes ought to be removed once every five or six weeks.
Preparation of the foot for the reception of a shoe consists in lowering the wall to a level with the unpaired sole, leaving all the other parts untouched by knife or rasp. As an index of what the foot should be like when properly prepared may be taken the foot of an unshod colt that has been travelled upon a moderately hard smooth road, until the crust is worn (not broken) to a level with the sole; by keeping in mind this standard, an owner may always judge whether his horses’ feet are being unduly mutilated by the smith.
It is useless to overweight farm horses with an excessively heavy shoe: lightness, strength, and durability are the primary features to be achieved. A plain rim of iron, 1 inch to 1J inch wide, level on both its surfaces, accurately adjusted to the prepared foot, and having an equal and level bearing upon the ground, is all that is required. The shoes should be fastened with as few nails as possible, driven in directions least liable to damage the horn, and securely clinched. If the shoe has been properly fitted to the foot, there will be no superfluous horn to cut away at the junction of the shoe with the foot; no rasping or paring of the hoof after the shoe is fastened must be permitted.
The shoeing of horses required to work continuously upon hard and slippery asphalt or granite paved carriageways has in recent years received a considerable amount of attention, and although allowing that much improvement has been affected, it must be admitted that this important work is still some distance in the rear of the improvements adopted in the construction and maintenance of the roadways. There is a remunerative field open to an inventor who will introduce a non-slippery shoe fulfilling the other essential requirements—durability, suitability, and cheapness.
For heavy draught horses moving enormous weights (say loads of from six to nine tons upon good roads per team of two horses) there is no shoe equal to that now universally adopted in the large towns in the north-west of England.
It is true that the shoe is heavy and clumsy in appearance, but its substance and form seem at present indispensable; the iron forming the outline of the shoe must necessarily be strong enough to afford a maximum of resistance to the strain created by the exertion of the force employed in draught, as well as to afford secure attachment for the ‘ spurn ‘ (toe-piece), and also to supply material from which substantial calkins may be forged. Objections are raised to these shoes on account of the obstacles they create to frog-pressure which is unattainable in them.
In cart horses’ frog-pressure does not appear to be an essential for the preservation of well-formed feet, a fact which may be demonstrated by an inspection of any stud of horses where due care is exercised in the management of their farriers.
Mutilation by the rasp and knife of those parts of the foot intended to protect the internal sensitive structures is, as far as heavy horses are concerned, the chief cause of contraction and deterioration of previously good and sound feet. I have frequently been astonished to note the misery and pain to which the dray horses of London and some other southern towns, travelling on smooth and slippery pavements of improved construction, are subjected to, by being shod with flat shoes, and have wondered what reasons can be advanced for the retention of such a system.
The weight of the London loads is utterly insignificant compared with those behind the Liverpool and Manchester teams, yet the horses flounder and slip at every step, affrighted, perspiring, and afraid to, employ one half their power in drawing, for fear they may be called upon to use the other half to preserve their equilibrium.
If owners would calculate the cost of such shoeing by estimating the loss of earnings on goods carried per horse, added to the loss of condition or its equivalent represented by increased cost of keep, and useless wear and tear of horse-flesh, I feel persuaded that a modification of the system of shoeing practiced in the northern towns would quickly supersede the mode more generally adopted in the south.
The application of stopping and emollient preparations to the horn are unnecessary, unless the foot is diseased, or has been rendered defective by previous and repeated mutilations.
Horses with flat feet, weak heels, thin soles, and soft prominent frogs, are benefited by wearing a wider-webbed, heavier shoe, thickened, or caulked at the toe and heels to relieve undue pressure upon a preternaturally large and soft spongy frog. The converse holds good with thick upright feet, for which all available means should be employed to obtain frog-pressure.
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