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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/491

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HORSES AND THEIR FEET

his pages nothing which they may charge with extravagance, rashness, and intolerance. They will not be told that unless they abandon the system of shoeing altogether they can effect no improvement in the present state of things, or even that they must hasten to change the old system for the new. On the contrary, they will find that they are again and again warned against imprudent haste, and are told that a vast amount of good may be achieved even if they never venture on leaving their horses’ feet in a state of nature.

Of these arguments and facts it might be difficult to determine which are the most important and significant. Certain it is that our horses generally are afflicted with a multitude of diseases which seize on their legs and feet, and that lameness is everywhere a cause of constant complaint and of loss of time and money. The author is not speaking from theory or from book, but takes his stand on an experience obtained during a sojourn of many years in foreign countries, especially in America, where in the construction of railways and other public works he had to employ hundreds of horses and mules on tasks which taxed their capabilities to the utmost. In Mexico, Peru, Brazil, and elsewhere, he found that unshod horses were daily worked over roads of all kinds, carrying heavy packs from the interior down to the coast, the journey thither and back being often extended to several hundreds of miles, and that they accomplish these journeys without ever wearing out their hoofs; and the roads in these countries, where they exist at all, are neither softer nor smoother than those of England or of Ireland. If horses fell lame, it was from causes incidental to the climate, and for these the system of shoeing would supply no remedy. From other diseases, which from strong and often incontestable reasons may be traced to the use of shoes, they were wholly free. The necessary conclusion was that the system of shoeing could answer no good purpose, while it might be productive of much harm; and in this conclusion he was confirmed by the admissions and protests of the most able and competent veterinary surgeons in this country. These have uniformly raised their voices against the heavy weighting of the horse’s foot maintained by the traditional practice. It has been found here that the hoofs of some horses are so weak that they can not be fully shod; and a writer in the “Field,” styling himself “Impecuniosus,” cited some ten years ago a remark by Mayhew that “some horses will go sound in tips that can not endure any further protection,” adding the significant comment that the moral of this is that “it is the shoe, not the road, that hurts the horse”; for, if a weak and tender foot can go sound when all but unshod, “why should not the strong, sound one do the same?” The conclusion, as he insists, should rather be that a horse must have a strong, sound foot to stand, not our work, but our shoe. The same writer, speaking of the cruelties unwittingly perpetrated by grooms and blacksmiths on the horse’s foot, says that, “though lameness usually attends their efforts, they ascribe it to every