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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/497

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HORSES AND THEIR FEET

to the ancient world, and which is in truth simply a modern, as it is also a most uncalled-for, barbarism. No iron helped to produce the heavy sound of solid horn which Virgil ascribes to the fiery steed of Pollux. Of late years we have heard much of the unjustifiable waste of time spent on classical literature which has no practical bearing on the interests of modern life. It is unfortunate that Xenophon’s treatise on the management of horses has not formed one of the subjects for the upper forms of our public schools; and it would be well if they were made to read with care a book written by one who wrote unfettered by the restraints of any traditional system, and who successfully brought the cavalry, as well as the infantry, of the Cyreian army of Greeks from the plains of Babylon to the shores of the Euxine. There they would see how thoroughly the rules laid down by the leader of the Ten Thousand for the selection and management of horses are in accordance with the highest scientific knowledge of the present day, and how happy an ignorance he displays of the long and dismal catalogue of diseases and miseries which a wrong-headed and ridiculous system has called into existence. No horses could be subjected to a more severe strain in every limb of their body than were those which Xenophon led from Cunaxa over the Armenian highlands to the walls of Trebizond; yet we hear nothing of any special difficulties arising from diseases of the foot or leg. It may probably be said with truth that the strain endured by those horses could be borne only by unshod animals. Paul Louis Courier, the French translator of Xenophon’s treatise, was so struck by the apparent soundness of his method, that he put it to the test by riding unshod horses in the Calabrian campaign of 1807, and he did so with complete success. But that which with him was a voluntary experiment has been for others an involuntary necessity. This was the case with many of our cavalry-horses during the Indian Mutiny, and their riders have declared that they were never better mounted in their lives. In the retreat of the French from Moscow, the horses, “Free Lance” remarks, lost all their shoes before they reached the Vistula; yet they found their way to France over hard, rough, and frozen ground. In his invasion of America, Cortes could not carry about with him the anvils, forges, and iron needed for shoeing even the small number of horses which he had with him. But these horses did their work and survived it, and from them comes the fierce mustang of Mexico, which still goes unshod. There is great force in the remark of “Free Lance,” that horses are not indigenous to America, this being their first introduction, and that the climate and locality, therefore, have not that influence over the hoof which they are commonly supposed to have. The small horses of the irregular cavalry at the Cape, which took part in the battle of Ulundi, had no shoes on their hind-feet, and few were shod even in front, but they held out longer and went miles farther than the shod animals; and no complaints were made of any of them falling lame, although, as “Free Lance” adds,