There are unfortunately few of the persons engaged in the skillful art of horseshoeing possessed of a full knowledge of the delicate or-ganizatfofPof-tlie feet of horses, and their susceptibility to injury by improper paring of the hoof, formation of the "shoes,-Slid attachment of the same. Horses are peculiarly seH sitive to lamness, and it is obvious that great care in the particulars mentioned should be observed in order that a firm, positive and comfortable tread should be given the feet, so as to make them capable of exerting the wonderful degree of muscular strength of which they are possessed without injury to the exquisitely constructed parts which are brought into play. In the June number of the Dublin Agricultural Review, we find a long article written by William Miles, extracted from the Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of London, and as it is impossible from its length to insert it entire in one number of our paper, we have concluded to divide and publish it in detached portions. We heartily commend this able production to the perusal of those of our readers interested in this important subject. The first portion commences as follows :— If I were asked to account for my horses' legs and feet being in better order than those of my neighbors, I should attribute it to the four following circumstanoes : First, that they are all shod with few nails, so placed in the shoe as to permit the foot to expand every time they move ; secondly, that they all live in boxes instead of stalls, and can move whenever they please ; thirdly, that they have two hours' daily walking exercise when they are not at work ; and fourthly, that I have not a head-stall or rack chain in my stable. These four circumstances comprehend the whole mystery of keeping horses' legs fine, and their feet in sound working condition up to a good old age. All that is really required is to take one anatomical and one physiological fact on trust, and believe that the horse's hoof is lined by a very sensitive membrane, which must on no account ever be wounded, and that the hoof itself is elastic, and expands when the weight of the horse is thrown on the foot, and contracts when it is taken off again ; all the rest is purely mechanical, and merely calls for the exercise of a little thought and patience to understand the principle and apply it. The result of the numberless experiments I have made at various times, on all sorts of horses doing every kind of work, is, that there is but one principle to be observed in horseshoeing, which will admit of no variation or compromise ; the shoe must fit the foot, whatever the shape of the foot may happen to be, and it must be nailed to the hoof in such a manner as will permit the foot to expand to the weight of the horse ; this latter condition will be best complied with by placing three nails in the outer limb of the shoe, and two in the inner limb between the toe and the commencement of the inner quarter ; a larger number than five nails can never be required in any shoe of any size, or under any circumstances, excepting for the sole purpose of counteracting defective and clumsy fitting. No horse should have more than one foot bared at a time ; however strong his feet may happen to be, he is sure to stand quieter on a shod foot than he can on a bare one, and it will prevent his breaking the crust. A horse with weak flat feet is in positive misery when forced to sustain his whole weight on a bare foot, while the opposite foot is held up. A strong foot with an arched sole, when the roads are in good order, will require to have the toe shortened, the quarters and heels lowered, and the. sole pared, until it will yield in some slight degree to very hard pressure from the thumb ; but on no account should it ever be pared thin enough to yield to moderate pressure ; the angles formed by the crust, and the bars at the heels, must be cleared out, and all the dead horn removed therefrom, and the bars should be lowered nearly to a level with the sole. A weak flat foot, on the contrary, will bear no shortening of the toe, and very little paring or lowering anywhere ; the heels of such feet are sure to be too low already, and the sole too thin ; in fact, the less that is done to them the better beyond clearing out the dead horn from the angles at the heels, and making the "crSsTJS evenly on the shoe ; but the hollow between the bars and the frog, or the frog itself, must never be touc6s4-fey-& knife in any foot, whether it be a weak one or a StrC3g-62%-and as these latter directions differ materially from the usual practice of smiths, I may, perhaps, be expected to state my reasons for wishing to enforce them in opposition to what they no doubt consider a time-honored custom ; I mean, the inveterate habit they all have of trimming the frog, and opening out the heels at every shoeing ; but I think I shall be able to show, that "it is a custom more honored in the breach than in the observance." The shoe should be neither too light, nor too narrow in the web ; light shoes are apt to bend be f ere they are half-worn out, and narrow-webbed shoes expose the sole and frog to unnecessary injury from stone in the road. Every fore-shoe should be more or less seated on the foot-surface, to prevent it pressing on and bruising the sole ; but a perfectly flat surface should be preserved around the edge of the foot-surface of the shoe from heel to heel for the crust to rest upon. The amount of seating to be employed must be determined by the description of foot to be shod ; for instance, a broad foot, with a flat sole and weak horn, will require a wide web, considerably seated, to prevent it coming in contact with the sole and bruising it ; but a narrow foot, with an arched sole and strong horn, will require less width of web and less seating, otherwise the dirt and grit of the road would become impacted between the shoe and the sole, and cause as much pressure and injury as the iron would have done.
This article was originally published with the title "Horseshoeing" in Scientific American 13, 43, 342 (July 1858)