The Horse:By George Hamilton.
Adelaide: Printed By J. T. Shawyer, 71, King William Street. 1864.page break
In presenting this little pamphlet to the public the Author is actuated by a sincere desire to place before his readers the trials and sufferings the horse has to undergo as he enters on, and during, his useful career; and it is with the hope that some good may spring from the writer's efforts, that he has brought his pencil as well as his pen to bear on the subject.
Trusting that the public will always encourage every endeavour that is made to benefit that noble animal the horse, the writer offers no apology for introducing this little work to the notice of all those who feel any interest in the subject.
To his friend Colonel Biggs, the author here tenders his grateful thanks, for the clever and artistic way in which the gallant Colonel has converted rough sketches into exquisitely finished pictures.page break
The horse: its Treatment
It is a wise dispensation that gives to the Australian horse a good constitution, and the pleasant habit of buck-jumping; if it were not for these blessings, I fear the Australian horse would drag through a sorry existence: but the strong constitution enables him to bear a great deal of ill treatment, and the talent for buck-jumping gives him now and then a taste of the sweet flavour of revenge.
The Australian climate is,—But I must refrain from describing a climate about which so many writers differ: and as I do not wish to enter into any controversy on the subject, I will merely state that Australia has a climate, and that this climate is peculiarly favourable for rearing horse stock. In this country the horse is liable to very few diseases, and if it were not for that prevalent epidemic the horse-breaker, the poor animal would enjoy a very comfortable existence.
In Europe we hear of horses breaking down, and of their constitutions breaking up; now the term "breaking in," as acknowledged in Australia, frequently embraces the two former, and when a horse page 6 is "broken in" you may, in many instances, safely conclude that he is broken up and broken down.
The Australian horse breaker, generally speaking, is not blessed with the godlike attribute of patience, and the "long-suffering" which almost always accompanies that virtue is transferred to the horse, while the virtue itself is ignored. It may be as well at the outset of these remarks, to say at once that there are some horse breakers in Australia who are patient, merciful, humane, and amiable, leading steady lives themselves, and pursuing their occupation in a highly respectable and praiseworthy manner, and having said so much, I must beg these gentlemen to understand that when I allude to the horsebreaker in general terms I do not include them in my remarks; but while there are some few persons who follow the occupation of horsebreaking in a humane and merciful manner, there are crowds of individuals who enter on it unfitted by temper, education, or habits, to have the control over any animal whose skin is thinner than that of a hippopotamus, or whose temper is milder than that of a wild boar. These persons consider themselves eminently qualified to break in a horse if they can sit on his back while he buck-jumps; they have no idea of appealing to the animal's feelings except through the whip and spur, and after having made a horse thoroughly frightened of them, bullied all courage and high spirit out of him, and whipped and spurred him into sullen stubbornness, they send him into the market as thoroughly "broken in."
Now any man who is a friend to that noble page 7 animal the horse, must be the enemy of that inferior creature the breaker, and it is high time that the interests of both should be duly acknowledged by the public. In the name of humanity let us prevent that class of swaggering, dirty, disreputable looking men, whose habitat is a public house, and whose occupation is drinking and smoking, from torturing our horses. Let me ask any one of my readers, if—when he has witnessed some brutal treatment by the breaker of the poor brute he bestrode—he has not felt that the gift of a firm seat has been given to the wrong man, and that a broken head would be but a fit reward for the cruel exertions of such a monster. Who has not seen with sorrow, the wreck of some noble horse, in Australia, and found the poor animal's history written in the blemishes of his body? the galled withers, the lost eye, the broken knees, are frightful illustrations to sad narratives of cruel tyranny and painful suffering; and yet how often is it the case, that the high spirit of this noble creature carries the maimed body and injured limbs through great trial and extreme privations, in the service of a master who repays this faithful toil by sending him when broken down to the nearest auctioneer, to be sold for what he will fetch. I know of no place in this world where sad histories are so eloquently told as in the auctioneer's cattle yard; there the lame, the maimed, and the blind are brought forth with all the evidences of man's brutal treatment advertised on their limbs and bodies in the most indelible ink that strong hands and hard hearts can print upon them. page 8 How pitiful is the sight when some fine framed animal is brought forth for sale, with all the spirit of its noble nature beaming in its beautiful eyes, with all the freshness of life running through its veins, and yet crippled in its limbs by the hard usage of those it has served with too much zeal and fidelity. I am not much given to the "melting mood" myself, but such sights always give me a choking sensation in the throat, and a dimness of vision which would certainly betray me into making a fool of myself if the sensation was not speedily relieved by a counteracting desire to pitch some "lord of creation" off his perch on the top rail of the stockyard, for jesting at the crippled appearance of the superior animal in the enclosure. But the history of the horse's wrongs would fill a volume, and therefore it would be but fruitless labor to endeavour to condense it in these few following remarks, which are written more as an explanation to the sketches representing the treatment of the horse in Australia, than as a treatise on the horse and his master.
The treatment of the horse in Australia is illustrated in eleven sketches in which are represented some—not by any means all—of the trials a horse has to go through, from the time he is taken from his native woods until he is reduced to the drudgery of a hackney car. The first sketch, No. 1 of course shews the horse in his wild state, before the iron has entered either his mouth or his "soul;" he has been running at large, and his youthful days have been full of happiness; but now, poor fellow, he gazes on page 9 two horsemen who are approaching him for a purpose that he little dreams of. In the next sketch, No. 2, the two horsemen are driving him at full gallop to the stockyard, where he arrives, like the grapes at the vintage, with shouting and rejoicings, and also with a salute of stockwhips. Unfortunately for him the simile of the grapes does not cease here, for he has to undergo a smart process of bruising, squeezing, and treading under foot before he is allowed to pass out of his confinement. When in the stockyard, the ceremony of introducing the horse to his rider is commenced, and I cannot say that the rules of politeness govern this proceeding. The rider, or rather the breaker, holding in his hand a long stick over the end of which is the noose of a long rope, advances cautiously towards the poor frightened animal, at first with gentle soothing words, but as the horse, like some inveterate old bachelor, perseveringly objects to the noose, and gallops here and there about the stockyard, the gentle words are changed for harsh, guttural sounds, that assume the shape of curses both "loud and deep." This balance, or setting to your partner in quadrille phrase, sometimes lasts long enough to tire out the patience of the performers, before the next figure of "turning your partner round" is accomplished; but at last the fatal noose is slipped over the horse's head, and drawn tightly round the miserable wretch's windpipe, and he is fairly, or unfairly, in the man's power. Astonished, frantic, maddened, and frightened, the poor animal endeavours to escape; but the rope, like poverty, or rheumatism, or page 10 the gout, or what working men call "marriage lines," is not a thing to slip out of, or to be got rid of; and so after many vain attempts to be free he gradually subsides into sullen submission, not however before he has had some tolerably bad falls by rearing over as represented in sketch No. 3. Once down, subdued, and conquered, he undergoes tortures that must be imagined, not described; his flowing tail is cut off, why, heaven only knows! in this country where flies are more abundant than pleasant companions, and quite as disagreeable though not so venomous as scandal mongers; the tail of the horse is especially required to sweep away these nuisances, but from "man's caprice" the horse must be left like the unhappy victim of some scandal loving clique, at the mercy (such as it is) of all the backbiters that buzz away their idle lives feasting upon the victims that man has first of all rendered defenceless. After the tail has been cut off, the brand of hot iron is applied to the skin, as represented in sketch No. 4. By this time the animal, like Mark Tapley, has had so many "surprises" that he has exhausted his stock of astonishment and "shut up shop," and he now lies quietly submitting to whatever man may please to do with him. After he is branded, his legs are loosened, and he is directed to "get up;" this direction is generally accompanied with a kick on the stomach, and flavoured with an oath or two, roared out at the top of the civilized man's voice to the savage untutored dumb animal on the ground. The horse having risen and shaken himself, looks round in an amazed and page 11 muddle brained way at his tormentors; wags the bleeding stump of his tail, and walks like Falstaff's soldiers, "wide in the legs," away to a corner of the stockyard, there to feel how the last few hours have completely changed his present condition, and his future prospects for the worse; maimed, bleeding, bruised, and sore, he is left to pass anything but a jolly night in the yard so full of painful reminiscences. If sleep visits his eyelids it comes without any of those allurements which King Henry says surround the beds of monarchs. The next day he is turned out on the run, or into a paddock, a sadder if not a wiser horse, in due time he is taken up again to be broken in. Having already experienced the effects of man's society, it is not to be wondered at if he shows an inclination to decline any closer intimacy, and makes as many shifts and dodges to get away from his breaker, as you my dear reader would do to avoid that bore Prosy, who will, if he can, catch you by the button; but the bore's fingers, and the breaker's noose are unluckily not to be avoided, the victims must be caught, and being caught they must endure the infliction prepared for them. The horse seeing the breaker approach him with a cavesson in his hand, which the poor ignorant brute imagines to be some instrument of torture, fancies that he is going to have another tail cut off, and more branding and ill usage to undergo, and very naturally recommences the balance movement until the rope is again round his neck. After the usual exertions to free himself, made under a smart shower of "ossey" oaths, he is page 12 brought to a standstill, and the cavesson is put on; he is then led out and "lounged" or "lunged" (for I cannot find the word in the dictionary), that is to say, he is driven round in a circle, one man holding a long line attached to one of the rings of the cavesson, another driving the animal by means of a whip, every now and then applied to his flanks. This is the A, B, C of the breaking lesson; and perhaps the horse agrees with the idle boy in thinking it hardly worth while going through so much to learn so little.
Sketch No. 5 represents this movement. After the lounging is over, the roller and side reins are put on, and the iron bit is put into the horse's mouth for the first time; in due course the saddle is put on, and advances are made towards the next step of mounting on his back; as this movement is sometimes fraught with considerable danger to the breaker, precautions are taken to avert any serious catastrophe. A small bar of wood or iron wrapped round with a piece of carpeting, or blanket, or rug, is strapped across the pommel of the saddle, the horse is then lounged and soothed; the hand of the breaker is held forth in friendship; the "soothering" system is adopted, the endearing terms of "poor fellow," "good horse," "whoa, pretty pet," and other phrases of an affectionate "ossey" kind are lavished on the animal, whose display of temper is now of some consequence to his rider. But there are some horses whose obdurate natures are not to be softened even by these seductive terms, although they are accompanied with page 13 pattings and caresses; these hardened animals still continue to retain in their memories recollections of the knife, the brand, and the rope, and when the opportunity arrives for paying off the debt, they do not neglect it, but with a zeal and honesty that would be a caution and example to some insolvent debtors, they eagerly meet these "liabilities," with sometimes a small trifle over, in the way of a broken neck, or split skull for the rider. Sketch No. 6 represents the exertions the honest horse is making to repay the obligations he is under to his breaker, and from all appearances accounts will soon be settled, for the seat of the man can hardly be termed very firm, and another buckjump will most probably complete the last instalment in the liquidation of the debt and interest. In sketch No. 7 is seen the man remounted, and armed with a "waddie," which is the colonial word for a bludgeon; he is using it as a drummer does his drumstick, and beating a prolonged tattoo on his horse's sides; his companion, like the bugler of the band, is accompanying the movement with many flourishes of his instrument; and between them they are performing a duet, which, if the horse had any knowledge of music, he would imagine to be taken from the opera of "Fra Diavolo." This process is termed "thoroughly breaking in," and as it is followed by the horsebreakers whom I have represented in an earlier page of these remarks as persons who should be regarded with a wholesome hatred, it is not to be considered a matter of surprise that the "walers" (as the people in India call the Australian horses.) page 14 rather astonish the natives of that country by a display of the qualities they have acquired by this method of training. The horse being now thoroughly broken in, is probably sold to a gentleman who may possibly have an Irish groom, who while holding the horse for the master to mount, might address him thus:—
"Yer honor, I'd be thinking this 'harse' can ' jomp.'"
"What makes you think that, Dennis," says his master.
"Be dad, I just tuk him over a fence yesterday."
"But you should not do that," replies the gentleman.
"Oh be gorra, yer honor, it didn't do him a thrifle of hurt, he was over fresh, an I thought I'd take a little of the devil out of him, sure he'd go beautiful for the 'hurdles.' "
And so the horse is trained and entered for the "hurdles," and the fulfilment of Dennis's prophecy is represented in sketch No. 8. In the words of that sporting phraseology with which the English language has been so much enriched and adorned, the horse and jock in this sketch have "come to grief," experienced a cropper," and are both "grassed," and Dennis in all probability, loses several nobblers and pots of two ales by the accident. His master however, is more seriously affected by the event, as he has the mortification to find that the "harse" did not "jomp" as was expected, and that he is "dead lame" after his fall; that the expense of training has been page 15 thrown away; that he has backed the wrong horse in the race; and that his betting book is not filled with such light and pleasant literature as it might have contained, had events been more favourable to his horse and his backers. The lameness has now to be looked to; at first it is supposed to be in the shoulder, then in the leg, and afterwards in the hoof. The leg is blistered and fired, the hoof is pared down until there is hardly enough horny substance left to protect the sensitive flesh within; but all these remedies have the effect of only torturing the animal, without removing the disorder, and it is finally decided that the lameness is in the shoulder and incurable. The poor fellow is then sold to a stockholder for a stockhorse, and the tender mercy of man to his dumb faithful slave is represented in sketch No. 9, in which it will be seen that a good gallop over a rocky country is the treatment the master considers suitable to an incurably lame animal. This treatment has the effect however, of speedily laming the horse in such a manner that there no longer remains any doubt as to what limb is affected; the blistering and firing then go on again, and the gallops are resumed with the usual results of fresh lameness until the poor miserable creature is (in sporting terms), so groggy on his legs that he is unsafe to ride, but as he has still some "work in him" he must not be left or turned adrift until that "work" is all taken out of him, and as he is no longer "safe to ride," he may be made to go in "harness." This involves the necessity of sending him back to page 16 the breaker, to renew an intimacy which has left such an indelible impression on his memory; but now the terrors of the stockyard, and the cruelty of man are so familiar to him, that he submits patiently to the process of harnessing, and with stoical indifference allows the collar to be passed, in a somewhat rough manner, over his head, and placed on his neck; he also without any display of emotion, permits the blinkers to blind his eyes; in fact, he seems to have yielded himself up to his destiny entirely, like Dick Swiveller. The harness on, he is generally put into a break by the side of an old, steady horse, and then the first trial of his stoicism is put to the test, for when he endeavours in obedience to the voice and whip of the driver, to move forward, he feels himself dragged back by the collar, and then pushed forward by the breeching, and as the old horse moves steadily onward, our novice hears a rumbling noise behind him, which follows wherever he goes, like the harsh voice of a bad conscience, or the vituperative accusations of a jealous woman; he rears, kicks, and plunges, but the harness is strong, and the pole tough, every now and then he feels the thong of the whip on his flank, or ribs, or head; hoodwinked, and tied to some roaring, rumbling monster, that seems to have the power of flogging him, the poor devil makes fruitless efforts to get free, and it is not until after he has become exhausted by his struggles, and somewhat reconciled to the music of the axletree and wheels, that he subsides into a quiet trot, and being an honest horse he feels that man is thrusting on him obligations that page 17 must in due time be paid off. In sketch No. 10 he is seen readjusting the accounts. Probably the gentleman who is seen holding, like a responsible minister, such a "precarious position" on the water-cart, has purchased the hero of our remarks at an auctioneer's sale. Perhaps on the faith of the auctioneer's assurance, that the horse is "quiet in harness," possibly without any such statement, he has in colonial phraseology "chanced it," and put the animal into harness under the idea, that with such fired, wind-galled, curbed, and spavined limbs, no animal could run away with, or do any injury to that vehicle of bygone days, the water-cart; but, whether misguided by the auctioneer, or led away by his own false hopes, he is now learning for himself how far either are to be trusted. The paths to knowledge are various; but I know of none that are not thorny, unpleasant, and painful—from the time we enter on them with the birch rod behind us, until we quit them full of distrust and disappointment—and I fear the owner of the water-cart will find the path to knowledge, on which he is now being whirled along, is one of an unpleasant and painful class.
The history of the horse, as illustrated in the sketches we have alluded to, is now drawing to a close, and I wish we could dispose of our hero in a comfortable or sentimental way, but alas for him! he cannot be reconciled to his friends, and retire to the bosom of his family, to die at last respected and beloved by all; nor can he throw himself out of a window, or off a bridge, or poison himself, or indeed page 18 pass from life in any interesting and sentimental manner; he has no way of escaping from the ills of life. The chalice, the dagger, the rope, and the stream, are open doors and safe passages to the next world for men and women, but the poor horse must bear all his trials, and perhaps die on a dunghill after all. In the 11th and last sketch, our hero is seen in a "hackney car." Constant work and hard fare have sadly reduced him in body and spirit; he droops his head in a meditative manner, possibly thoughts occupy his mind (if he has one) that are not at all complimentary to the aristocrats of nature, who have shewn humanity in its dirtiest state to him; the reins now hang down, like a slattern's stockings, about his heels; the "poetry of motion" has lost its charms for him; he looks as if he had been overworked the previous day or night, perhaps the races have attracted crowds to the course, and the amusements of his masters have been purchased at the sad price of the horse's sufferings; or the theatre has been opened for the purpose of raising money to relieve destitution of distant countrymen, and benevolent persons have little heeded when riding behind the poor jaded horse, how large is "his subscription" to the fund in the suffering he has to undergo while taking them to the place where they collect their charitable offerings; or it may be that drunken men and thoughtless women have been enjoying "a lark," by driving about the streets, reckless of everything, disregarding every rule that should govern mortals with minds, or beings with the crudest ideas of decency. Hard work, hard fare, page 19 neglect, and ill usage, are poor pensions for a life of faithful toil. The chevron-like marks of the firing iron on the poor horse's legs are the long service and good conduct badges on his coat, as well and truly earned as such marks of distinction are ever earned by the best and bravest soldier who fights for his country.
Hints on Shoeing
"If you please, Sir, the axle of the cart is broken."
"Then send it to the blacksmith."
"And Highflyer requires new shoes."
"Then send him to the blacksmith."
And so the axletree and the horse go to the forge, in many instances to be operated on in a most impartial manner. Now a very large proportion of persons who keep horses, never give a second thought about the shoeing of the animals they ride, or drive, and yet of all things it is the most important to the welfare of the horse, and the safety of the rider. A blacksmith who can weld an axle, is not always the man who can be trusted to shoe a horse; common sense, if not the nobler and better feeling of mercy, should warn us against the shoer who does not know anything of the interior construction of the hoof he is about to nail an iron shoe on.
Without going into a learned or tedious description of the hoof, it will suffice to say that there is a bone, called the navicular bone, under which passes a tendon, forming together the navicular joint. This joint is most sensitive, and to preserve it from injury, page 20 nature has placed beneath and around it a soft cushion of fleshy substance, which from bad shoeing, becomes at length to a certain extent horny and hard, and of course permanent lameness follows.
The process the blacksmith generally pursues when shoeing a horse is:—firstly to pare and rasp the hoof, until the horny sole gives under pressure of the thumb; he then "opens the heel," that is to say, he cuts away the frog, a most wanton proceeding, and very often removes the sides of the "bars," merely to give a neat appearance to the foot, which most blacksmiths imagine should be round; in cutting the frog he pares off the convex sides, which give the frog the shape of a heart, as represented in valentines, and makes them concave, instead of allowing them to remain as nature formed them, convex; the shoe is then fitted to the hoof, or as often occurs, the hoof is then fitted to the shoe by being cut and rasped down to the burnt horn that the hot shoe has charred; nails are then driven, generally opposite to each other, completely confining the foot, and preventing the expansion of the hoof, which expansion is as necessary to the preservation of this limb as a free passage of blood is necessary for the healthy condition of any portion of the body. Nature has made a horny substance to protect the horse's feet, and man has made a drawing knife to cut this protection away. Nature places the frog in the hoof to keep the interior portions of the foot in their proper places and in a healthy condition, and man does his best to thwart nature, with whom he seems constantly at war, by scooping page 21 out the hoof, and leaving the smallest possible protection to the sensitive flesh within.
The use of the "drawing knife" should always be made with the greatest care and judgment, and only those portions of the sole removed that are likely, from their flint like substance, to interfere with the protection, action, and support of the coffin bone; but while one horse requires the drawing knife to be used to clear the sole of his foot, another may not have any surplus horn that can be dispensed with, and therefore great care should be taken in this operation. But while there is a difference to be observed in the structure of the soles of the feet of individual horses, and judgment is required in treating these differences, there is only one way of treating the "frog," and that is to "leave it alone." Every piece of horny substance cut off from it exposes the delicate texture beneath to the air, and to contact with the ground, either of which is most detrimental to it. It was but a short time ago that I had to examine a horse, sent to the Police Barracks for sale; on looking at the poor creatures hoofs, which bore an extraordinary appearance, I found the frog reduced (by the practice of cutting away the sides) to a thin groove in the hoof, so cracked and withered, that not a particle of its delicate texture remained; its heart shape had entirely disappeared, and as a certain consequence the heel had contracted so much as to interfere considerably with the action of the crippled animal. What the poor brute had suffered, or was then suffering, from the effects of the ignorance of his shoer, no one can page 22 tell; but those who know something of the delicate structure of the hoof, can imagine the dreadful pain the poor uncomplaining creature had to endure.
If blacksmiths who undertake to shoe horses, and who have neither the means or the inclination to study the structure of the hoof, would only observe the following rules, we should have fewer horses with crippled feet than we now unfortunately possess.
Firstly, let the drawing knife be used with care and caution, the thick part of the toes of the forefeet may sometimes require it, but the heels seldom. It may be as well to remark here, that the toe of the fore hoof is thicker than the heel; the hindfoot on the contrary, is thicker in the heel and quarter than at the toe.
Secondly, avoid as you would strong drink, the practice of opening out the heels; this practice ensures a contracted hoof.
Thirdly, leave the frog untouched by the knife, nature will do everything requisite for the preservation of this part of the hoof unassisted by art.
Fourthly, let the nails of the shoe be so placed that they may not be directly opposite to each other, as this method confines the foot in an iron vice, and destroying its elasticity, prevents the expansion of the horny part of the hoof.
Fifthly, make the shoe strong and moderately thick, a thin shoe will bend and cause a strain on the nails' which by dragging on the hoof will give pain, or if it breaks it will bruise with the broken edges, the hoof.page 23
Above all things, bear in mind the fact, that the hoof of a horse is of a most delicate and complicated structure, very sensitive, filled with bloodvessels and nerves, arranged in such a way by nature that any injudicious interference most certainly leads to sad consequences, attended with severe pain to the horse, while it procures no benefit to the master. In my opinion, one of the principal objects of the shoer should be to preserve in a healthy and natural state that part of the inner hoof called the "fatty frog," or "elastic cushion," as on this rests the navicular joint, the most sensitive part of the hoof; where inflammation almost always commences, and where injury is irreparable. To do this, the outer frog and all the after part of the hoof must be preserved in the state in which nature has formed them; no paring or pruning with the drawing knife, to produce the effect of making the shoer's work look "neat," should for one moment be entertained or permitted.
A Hint on Stabling
"O! you naughty boy! go into the corner and stand there with your face to the wall." I am afraid that this command has been given to me more than once when I was "naughty" many years ago. Perhaps my gentle readers were always good boys, and consequently never stood in corners with their faces to the wall, in which case they cannot, from personal experience, know how particularly disagreeable such a position is, and how intolerable it becomes if the page 24 naughty boy is not soon forgiven; for my own part I always preferred Mrs. MacStinger's treatment, and in fact I generally procured it by disobeying the cruel order, and turning round and facing my natural enemy the governess. If such treatment is unpleasant to a boy; if the face to the wall is a position almost intolerable for one hour, what must it be for weeks, months, and years to the horse, who is tied to the wall in a confined stall, seeing nothing before him but whitewash; standing on an inclined plane with the whole weight of his body bearing on the back sinews of his legs, is it wonderful to find him, when out of the stable, ready to shy at everything that approaches him. Accustomed to such very blank prospects at home, he drops into the idea that all his hopes in life are confined within the narrow bounds of the whitewashed bricks and painted boards of his stall, and like the toad out of the rock, he is not ready to enter on a more extended sphere of action without some preparation. Always assailed in the stable from behind, he is hardly in a position to meet anything, be it either danger or pleasure, face to face. Standing too, as he does in his inclined stall day after day, and night after night, he finds this "uphill work" rather more painful than romantic, and less interesting than tedious. I wish some owners of horses, and keepers of stables (livery and others), would walk out any day into a paddock, and see in what way the horses that are resting after feeding are standing, and I will venture to assert that they do not find one single horse standing with his head page 25 uphill, and that the majority are standing with their heads downhill; unless indeed a smart breeze is driving before it a drifting rain, when they will all turn their tails to the shower. Why then should we pitch our stalls so as to make our horses stand in the very position they so naturally dislike. Lameness is the greatest affliction that can befal our horses, and yet we, by careless shoeing and negligent stabling invite it in all its forms. The prevention is simple enough; put horses into loose boxes, and get them shod by educated farriers; and if we do this, the time will arrive when a swollen tendon, and a contracted hoof, will be as rare as a rich gift to a poor relation.
In a colony like this, where persons belonging to almost every grade of society become owners of horses, it is essentially necessary that some system of shoeing should be followed which would prevent those diseases appearing in the hoof which so often shorten the period of a horse's useful services, and sometimes bring his life to a premature and painful termination.
When the possessor of a horse or horses finds it necessary to change his farrier, he may possibly discover that the method of shoeing has also been changed, by which change he may be made either a sufferer or a gainer, and not knowing anything about the practice himself he may in vain look at his horse's feet for an explanation.
The practice of "side-nailing," which is becoming very general, has been recommended by Miles and Turner, two great authorities on the treatment of the hoof and on shoeing. This practice, among other advantages, has the recommendation of not interfering with the expansion of the hoof when the foot is in motion, and this has been found of paramount importance.page 2
A very slight explanation of the structure of the hoof will show the reader the evil results that have ever followed the practice of confining the foot of a horse by nailing on a shoe in such a manner that expansion is impossible. There are three bones in the hoof; these rest partially or wholly on a soft elastic matter, called the "fatty frog." This matter is supported and kept in its place by the frogstay, which again rests on the outer frog. When a horse raises his foot, a flexor tendon, acting under the bones alluded to, slightly raises them from the cushion on which they rest, and when the foot returns to the ground the bones fall back on the cushion, which receives the weight of the animal on its yielding bed. This bed being elastic, of course presses against the walls of the hoof, and these being horny expand. The expansion and contraction may be very Blight; but they take place for a purpose which need not be further alluded to at present than by stating that it is necessary for the free circulation of the blood in the hoof. Now, any system that interferes with the free action of the hoof must produce lameness, therefore the "side-nailing system" has been adopted, as it is supposed that this method leaves the inner quarter of the hoof perfectly free. In "side-nailing" three nails are driven in the outer side of the hoof (that is of the fore-foot), and two nails on the inner side near the toe. The shoe is made long enough to support the extremity of the heel, but no longer. It must also fit close to the hoof all round, and none of it must be allowed to extend beyond the outer wall. In page break preparing the hoof for the shoe care must be taken that the pressure is even on all parts of the shoe; the frog must not be touched with the drawing knife, and the sole only relieved of those hard and flinty portions which would have been scaled off by contact with the ground, had the horse remained unshod; the nails should not be driven high up in the hoof; both Turner and Miles assert that this practice does not keep the shoe on more firmly than if they were clinched nearer to it; and the rasp must not be used outside the hoof for any purpose whatsoever—The use of it in such a way has a destructive tendency only. The reason why three nails are driven on the outer wall and only two on the inner near the toe is this—the hoof is thicker and more exuberant on the outer quarter and the toe than it is anywhere else. (I am alluding to the fore-foot.) The inner quarter is considered the wearing part of the foot; it is supposed to be constantly undergoing change by a more rapid process than that which affects the outer quarter, and, being weaker, the pressure of the nails against it, and the destruction of its expansive quality, leads to the formation of corns,—the falling in of the heel and quarter, the conversion of the fatty frog into a hard substance,—and, finally, to the establishment of that fatal result of all bad shoeing—the navicular disease.
It is not at all uncommon to hear persons complain of their horses' feet and legs having been knocked to pieces by the hard roads, when, in fact, the hard roads have had nothing whatever to do with them, the whole mischief having been done at the farrier's page 4 forge. In stating this I am far from blaming the farriers. They have pursued various systems, all of which they believe to be good; and I am certain that there is not a class of persons more willing or anxious to do their duty to their employers and the public than our farriers are; but it is not always possible for these persons to procure the expensive works that issue from the press treating on the subject of shoeing, and even if they could obtain an insight into these publications, they have not sufficient time to devote to the study of them. There are few trades more laborious than that of a blacksmith and farrier; their fires are burning late and early, the sound of their hammers is ringing in the ear sometimes before sunrise and often long after dark, and it is not to be expected that these industrious persons can snatch a few hours from rest and leisure to pursue a course of study; but if the owners of horses who have leisure time would look into some books treating on shoeing, and impart the knowledge they derive in a practical way to the shoers of their horses, they would be conferring a benefit on society, and they would also secure safety for themselves and comfort for their horses. With but very little instruction any owner of a horse would be able, when the animal came from the forge, to see whether he was properly shod or not. On lifting the hoof he could see if the shoe pressed equally on all parts of the wall, if the inner quarter was free from nails and not in any way confined, if the frog was untouched, if the heels were not extending beyond the shoe, and if the sole had been carefully page 5 divested of hard scales and left in a state to yield sufficiently to the pressure of the end of the coffin-bone, so as to relieve the concussion when the whole weight of the animal descended on that point.
I am perfectly aware that in quoting Turner and Miles I am selecting from a great number of writers on the hoof of the horse only two authors, and that other writers do not entirely agree with them; but as their system seems to me the best, and is, in my opinion, supported by able reasoning, I have put it before the public in the hope that some good may come out of it.