We are told by some learned veterinarians that the history of every horse is a record of human endeavor to mar his utility. This is a sweeping assertion, and means that every horseshoer is a bungler and does not understand his business. This may be true in many instances, but it is too exaggerated. Just think of it: a man shoes horses from ten to thirty years and still knows nothing about horseshoeing! It is true most horseshoers do not know as much as they ought to know, because they think they know it all and refuse to be informed; but after all, the average horseshoer knows more about horses’ feet than our veterinarians think they do. But generally it is the rule that only the greatest botch workman is also the greatest braggart.
Horseshoeing is a necessary evil-an unavoidable consequence of the domestication of the horse. We all concur in the aphorism, “no foot no horse.” Still a horse with feet so bad that he cannot walk without shoes will often be shod in such an ingenious way as to qualify him for both hard work and trotting, as well as to relieve him from suffering. No shoe has yet been invented for all-around purposes that will excel the iron shoe. We have for special purposes shoes made of leather and rubber, of which we shall have something to say in a future chapter. We will not venture to deny the fact that horseshoeing, performed by the most skillful hands, is at best attended by mischief to the foot. Each time the horse is shod and each time a nail is driven, is so much damage to the foot. But there is no immunity from this evil. When work is imposed on the horse that is of such a nature that it demands for the foot a footwear which nature cannot supply during rest, we must resort to artificial means, and the result is shoeing with iron shoes. In a wild state the horse needs no shoes. The wear and tear the feet are subjected to while hunting for food and spinning off some of the surplus of his animal energy is sufficient to keep his feet trimmed down to a normal condition. It is different when the horse is in bondage and must be used as a beast of burden, walking on hard roads and paved streets. Then his feet must be protected by shoes in default of a footwear which can be recuperated during rest.
Every horseshoer should know something about the anatomy of the foot of the horse. No board of examiners should allow an applicant to pass without some knowledge in this respect. Of course this knowledge alone will not, and should not, qualify a man. It is our duty as horseshoers to ask every state legislature to give us an apprentice law, that will require every young man who expects to become a horseshoer to serve an apprenticeship of three years. We have in some states a license law; but this is only a tax on every horseshoer, as any bungler, able to pay this tax, will be given a license to practice horseshoeing, ruin horses, cut down prices and lower the standard of the shoer to the level of botch.
The wall is the crust or horny sheet encasing the end of the foot, in the front and on the sides, from the coronet to the ground. (See A, Fig. 2) It is through this wall the nail is driven, and it is upon this wall the shoe rests. In front it is thicker, toward the quarters and heels it is thinner; but it has the same thickness from the coronet to the ground edge. The white colored wall is the poorer, while the iron colored wall, when healthy, is the stronger. The growth of the wall is about three inches a year in a healthy foot and on a young horse, but on an old horse and an unhealthy foot the growth is less. The wall is fibrous, the fibers running parallel from the coronet to the ground.
Coronet is the name of the upper margin of the hoof, or the place where the hair ceases and the hoof begins.
By quarters is meant a place at the bottom of the wall, about one-third the distance from the heel to the toe.
The horny walls on each side of the frog are what is called the bars, or braces. These bars commence at the heels of the walls and extend toward the point of the frog. These bars serve as a brace to hold the foot in shape and prevent the wall from contracting. (Fig. 3 shows the bars marked 3, and the wall marked 4.)
The frog is a spongy and elastic cushion, situated between the bars at the heel of the foot. (See 2, Fig. 3.) This body is fibrous and soft when healthy. Its office is to take up jars, spread the foot, and give it a solid grip and foothold. This body is an important part of the foot.
The bottom of the foot is called the sole. The sole is horny, but soft and more fibrous than the wall. It is thickest at the borders, where it connects with the wall. In a healthy condition it scales off in cakes. These cakes should be a guide to the farrier in paring the feet. We hear so much about paring the feet, and every veterinarian has the idea that no horseshoer understands how to pare the sole; but nature has set the limit. Just follow these scales and you are all right. There are feet which have no scales to go by, and the shoer must use his judgement. In such cases be careful and go slow. It is better to cut too little than to cut too much. In most cases it is only necessary to remove the loose scales and level the walls. Nature will govern the paring. The same thing can be said of the frog. The sole is designated by No.5, Fig. 3.
Fig. 3 A represents a tool that is indispensable to every shop. It is the best tool of its kind. I have one that I have used for over ten years, and it is just as good as it ever was.