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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/489

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473
HORSES AND THEIR FEET

inches, and killing it from the clinches downward and outward.” It is strange that veterinary surgeons who have clearly comprehended the mischief thus caused have failed to draw the logical inference from their premises. Mr. Douglas was aware that the crust of the horse’s foot resembles in its natural state a number of small tubes, bound together by a hardened, glue-like substance, and he compares it to a mitrailleuse gun with its many barrels soldered together. By his way of nailing, M. la Fosse was reducing the size of each tube by one sixth, or rather was entirely closing those nearest the nails and compressing those that lie half-way between each pair of nails. He was in this respect aggravating the mischief of the ordinary shoe, which commonly has seven nails; and this insured dryness and brittleness of hoof. But the circulation of fluid through the pores of the hoof is not the only natural process which modern shoeing interferes with. In his work on the horse’s foot, Mr. Miles illustrates the expansion and contraction which always take place in its natural state when it is set down on and lifted from the ground. The subject was a horse nine years old, which had the shoe removed for the purpose of the experiment. “The unshod foot was lifted up, and its contour traced with the greatest precision on a piece of board covered with paper. A similar board was then laid on the ground; the same foot was then placed upon it, and the opposite foot held up while it was again traced. The result was that it had expanded one eighth part of an inch at the heel and quarters.” Over two inches on each side of the center of the toe no expansion had taken place, the tracings showing that the expansion was only lateral. It would follow that a shoe intended to give full play to this process must be confined to the part where no expansion takes place; but Mr. Miles adhered to the form of the ordinary shoe, although he reduced to three the number of nails by which it was fastened. The object of this process of expansion and contraction is to give the animal a firmer hold on the soil, and to enable him, where this is thick, slimy, or sticky, to withdraw the foot easily on contraction. This purpose is necessarily defeated when the whole foot is armed with iron.

No one has condemned the mischievous working of the existing system more strongly than Mr. Mayhew, who refuses to allow that the body of the horse was made stronger than his legs and feet, and holds that these, if left to themselves, must be adequate to the tasks imposed on them. In his belief, “it is among the foremost physiological truths, that Nature is a strict economist,” and that “man has for ages labored to disarrange parts thus admirably adjusted.... No injury, no wrong, no cruelty, can be conceived, which barbarity has not inflicted on the most generous of man’s many willing slaves.” But, although he has thus seen “the folly of contending against those organizations which govern the universe,” he still thought that the employment of some sort of shoe might not lie open to this charge. Shoes of some