Sprung knees is the result of some disease not yet understood. We often find a horse with straight legs who will, without any noticeable cause, begin to set his knees forward, and in the course of a year or two the animal will have become totally useless.
It was the custom of all old writers to accuse the horseshoer of being the source and fountain from which all the diseases of the horse’s foot sprang; and it is a wonder that the horse has not been annihilated long ago, or at least all crippled beyond redemption. Even this disease has been attributed to the criminal stupidity of the farrier. I am happy to note that a change in this respect has begun to set in, and I will here quote Prof. A. Leautard, M. D., V. M. The professor says in his report to the Agricultural Department, Bureau of Animal Industry: “Sprung knees, though not positively the result of diseases of the tendons acting upon the knees, we venture to consider this deformity in connection with that which we have just discussed – knuckling fetlocks. It consists in such an alteration in the direction and articulation of the bones which form the various carpal joints. Instead of forming a vertical line from the cannon bone, they are so united that the knee is more or less bent forward, presenting a condition due to the retraction of two of the principal muscles by which the cannon bone is flexed. This flexion of the knee may also be a congenital deformity and have continued from the foaling of the animal. Or, like clubfoot, it may be the result of heavy labor which the horse has been compelled to perform at too early an age. It may also be due to other diseases existing in part below the knee joint. Whatever may be the originating cause of this imperfection it detracts very largely from the usefulness and value of a horse, disqualifying him for ordinary labor and wholly unfitting him for service under the saddle without jeopardizing the safety of the rider. If, however, the trouble is known from the start, and is not the result of congenital deformity or weakness of the knee joint, or secondary to other diseases, rest, with fortifying friction, may sometimes aid in strengthening the joints; and the application of blisters on the posterior part of the knee, from a short distance above, to a little below the joint, may be followed by some satisfactory result. But with this trouble, as with knuckling fetlocks, the danger of relapse must not be lost sight of, but kept in mind as a contingency always to occur.”
From the above we learn that it must be something else than bad shoeing which has caused this deformity. A horse with sprung knees is liable to become weak and debilitated from want of rest, and the strain enforce on the animal in order to stand. It will be noticed that a kneesprung horse cannot sleep standing, for he will fall as soon as he goes to sleep. In a straight leg the center of gravity is down through the center of the leg and out at the heels. This is changed in a case of sprung knees. Here the center of gravity is through a line forward of the suspensory ligaments and the result is that the horse must stand with an effort to hold the legs from doubling under him; hence it is tiresome to stand, and the horse will get worse and weaker.
There is very little for the horseshoer to do in such cases. Shoes with high heels may relieve some of the strain on the back tendons. Showering with cold water several times a day for a week or two and rest in the pasture may help.
How to Shoe a Vicious Horse
Shoeing kicking horses is both dangerous and hard labor. It is no use for a man to wrestle with a horse, as we now have so many different kinds of devices for handling vicious horses that any shoer can have at least one, and even several of them at his disposal for a nominal cost.
One simple device is the twist. A twist can be made of a piece of a broom handle two feet long. Bore a hole in one end and put a piece of clothes line through, so as to make a loop six inches in diameter. Put this loop over the lip or the ears of the horse, and then twist until it hurts enough to give him something else than the shoeing to think of. This simple method will help in a majority of cases. Should the twist prove ineffectual, make a leather strap with a ring and a buckle. Buckle this around the foot of the horse, tie a rope in the ring; next braid a ring into the tail and run the rope through this ring and back through the ring in the strap at the foot. Now pull in the rope. (See Fig. 59.)
In this device the horse will hand with his leg in his tail, and although he may make some effort to get loose in the start – probably throw himself – he will soon submit and in most cases never move a muscle. I have not yet had a case where I did not conquer the beast with this apparatus.
Another device is the sling. (See plate 28.) When the horse is ready to be raised, tie a rope around the foot to be shod, and when the horse is raised pull in the rope and the foot is easily managed.
Shoeing racks are also manufactured and sold to farriers. The Barcus Stocks manufactured by George Barcus & Co., Wabash, Ind., is the simplest and most convenient device for holding vicious horses. See illustration.
No shoer should lose his temper in handling a nervous or vicious horse, and abuse the animal, for in nine cases out of ten hard treatment will irritate the horse and owner, too. Do not curse, be cool and use a little patience. To a nervous horse talk gently, as you would to a scared child. The horse is the noblest and most useful animal to man, but is often maltreated and abused. Many a man has no truer friend than the horse. Then treat him as a friend that never will go back on you. A friend that will carry both you and your burdens, patient, long suffering, willing beyond your strength and endurance. Be a gentleman, even in your treatment of the horse