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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/493

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HORSES AND THEIR FEET

horses on the principle of the modified Charlier shoe, Messrs. Smither & Son, of Upper East Smithfield, have found the result marvelously to their advantage, in the measure of comfort and safety with which their animals do their work, whether in the London streets, on pavement, or on country roads. So far as their experience has gone, there are no horses which it does not suit, and it is of special service for young horses running on the London stones, and for horses with tender feet, or corns, and to prevent slipping. In other words, the absence of metal confers benefits which can not be bestowed by its presence. Facts in America teach the same lesson. At a meeting of the Massachusetts Board of Agriculture in 1878, Mr. Bowditch, a practical farmer, declared that “nine hundred and ninety-nine thousandths of all the trouble in horses’ feet come from shoeing,” that he was in the habit of driving very hard down hill, that he had galloped on ice on a horse whose feet had merely a small bit of iron four inches long curled round the toe, and that this piece of iron is all that is needed even in the case of an animal whose feet have been abused for a series of years. When nothing is left but this fragment of the traditional shoe, and when even this fragment has, as in Massachusetts and elsewhere, been retained for the fore-feet only, it is incredible that men should fail to ask what the use of this relic of the old system may be. Donkeys in Ireland are unshod, and they work on roads at least as rough, hard, slimy, and slippery as those of England. “Can one really believe,” asks “Free Lance,” “that the animal which is endowed with the greater speed and power should have worse feet than his inferior in both respects?” To such a question one answer only can be given; and the lesson may be learned by any one who will take the trouble to go to the wilds of Exmoor or Dartmoor. There, as in the Orkneys and on the Welsh hills and in many parts of the Continent of Europe, horses run unshod over rocks, through ravines, and up or down precipitous ridges. “Yet all this,” Mr. Douglas remarks, “is done without difficulty, and to the evident advantage of their hoofs, for these animals never suffer from contracted feet, or from corns, sand-cracks, etc., until they become civilized and have been shod.” Mr. Douglas, it is true, holds that civilization involves the need of a shoe of some sort for horses as for men; Mr. Mayhew advocates the use of the tip, and, as we have said, it is not in human nature to stop short at such a point as this. It is obvious that, if the complete abandonment of iron is followed by increased efficiency and power of endurance on the part of the horse, as well as by deliverance from a number of painful and highly injurious diseases, the owner is directly and largely benefited in more ways than one. His horses live in greater comfort and for a longer time; his veterinary surgeon’s bill and the outlay for medicine are greatly lessened, and the costs of farriery disappear altogether.

Farriers will, of course, complain that their occupation is gone,