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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/494

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

and that they are ruined men; but little heed was paid to like pleas when they were urged for the drivers and attendants of coaches and coach-horses when the first railways were constructed. Matters will adjust themselves in this case as they did in the other. But, that the change can not be effected in a day or a week, no one will venture to deny. The feet of horses are ordinarily treated, not wantonly but through ignorance, with a cruelty which is simply shocking. With vast numbers of animals which are not kept for purposes of drudgery, and in whose appearance their owners feel a pride, the hoof is a mere wreck, and the sight of the mangled and split hoof may well excite not merely pity but wonder that any can passively allow such evils to go on. A few, however, will always be found with resolution enough to shake off the fetters of traditionalism; and some of these have already expressed their opinion with sufficient emphasis. One of these, writing in November, 1878, says: “The argument against horseshoes seemed to me so strong, and the convenience of doing without them so great, that I resolved to try the experiment. Accordingly, when my pony’s shoes were worn out, I had them removed, and gave him a month’s rest at grass, with an occasional drive of a mile or two on the high-road while his hoofs were hardening. The result at first seemed doubtful. The hoof was a thin shell, and kept chipping away, until it had worn down below the holes of the nails by which the shoes had been fastened. After this the hoof grew thick and hard, quite unlike what it had been before. I now put the pony to full work, and he stands it well. He is more sure-footed, his tread is almost noiseless, and his hoofs know no danger from the rough hands of the farrier, and the change altogether has been a clear gain, without anything to set off against it. The pony was between four and five years old, and had been regularly shod up to the present year. He now goes better without shoes than he ever did with them.”

A well-known Cumberland farmer, writing about the same time, speaks of a farm-horse in his possession, which, having been lamed by a nail driven into its foot, had been for many months in the hands of the farrier. Tired out with this annoyance, the owner had his shoes taken off and turned him out to pasture. While still rather lame, the horse was set to work on the land; and he is now, we are told, “doing all sorts of farm-work, and dragging his load as well as any shod horse, even over hard pavement.” If judgment based on knowledge is to carry weight, the question would soon be settled. We have already seen the opinions expressed by the most able writers on the horse, and especially on the structure and treatment of his feet, as well as by the best veterinary surgeons. The verdict of the “Lancet” is almost more emphatic. “As a matter of physiological fitness,” it says, “nothing more indefensible than the use of shoes can be imagined. Not only is the mode of attaching them by nails injurious to