One of the great mistakes smiths fall into in shoeing the hind feet is squaring the toe, and placing a clip on each side of it, with a view, as they say, of preventing the horse striking the toe of his hind shoe against the heel of his fore shoe, and producing the disagreeable sound called "forging;" but as a horse never does " forge" with his toe, the plan of squaring it and the reason assigned for it equally fail in their object, and, like many other fallacies connected with the art of horseshoeing, produce the very results they were intended to obviate. A horse forges by striking the outer rim of each side of the hind shoe, just where it turns backward, against the inner rim of the fore shoe, just behind the quarters ; therefore the broader the toe of the hind shoe is made by the sqaring and the clips, the more likely the horse is to strike it against the fore shoe. It happens in this way: the horse fails to carry his fore foot forward quickly enough to get it out of the way of the hind foot, and the toe of the hind shoe is thrust into the opening of the still held up fore shoe, and the outer edge of the hind shoe strikes against the inner rim of the fore shoe and produces the sound. I have entirely cured several horses of forging by merely causing the corners of the artifi-ficially-squared toe to be removed and the toe restored to its natural form. The best mode of treating the toe of hind shoe of all horses is to make it rounding and rather pointed, and to turn up a small stout clip in the center : the toe should be tolerably thick, as the wear is always great at this part of the shoe, and the back edge should be rounded with a file, particularly for horses at all likely to be put to fast work ; it prevents the chance of "overreach," which, likeforging, is often erroneously attributed to the front of the toe, but it is invariably caused by the back edge, which in a half-worn-out shoe becomes as sharp as a razor. The accident is very properly named, for the horse really overreaches the fore foot with the hind foot, and the back edge of the toe of the hind shoe in its return passage to the ground strikes the soft part of the heel of the fore foot, and often produces a wound that is very troublesome and difficult to heal. The only other portions of the hind shoe which require special attention are the heels. The plan I have adopted for many years past is to have them forged longer and deeper than is commonly done, and when the ragged ends have been cut off, the heels are made red hot, and the shoe placed in the vice with the heels upward and projecting ; the smith then hammers them down, to shorten and condense them, until the mass is reduced to about an inch and a-half in length; he then removes the shoe from the vice and makes the top, bottom and sides of the heels flat on the anvil, preparatory to fitting the shoe to the foot, taking care that both heels are of equal height. This plan affords a larger and more even surface of support than mere calkins would do, and is better for fast work; but calkins are very useful for heavy draught, provided they are made of an equal length at each heel. Nothing is more distressing te a horse than working in shoes that bear unevenly on the ground, twisting and straining his joints at every step he takes. Some horses have a habit of striking the foot or shoe of one side against the fetlock joint of the other side either with their fore or hind feet, and various devices have been at different times suggested as a remedy for the evil; but as each horse has his own mode of doing it, much difficulty is often experienced in hitting upon the right one. I have frequently solved the difficulty by placing a boot or piece of cloth covered with damp pipe-clay over the injured part, and then causing the horse to be trotted along the road, and he generally retnrns with some of the pipe-clay adhering to the offending portion of the opposite foot or shoe, as the case may be, pointing out pretty clearly the part to be lessened or removed. The adoption of this simple plan has saved many a horse from months of torture arising from ill-contrived shoes and misapplied remedies. As a general rule, horses' shoes should be removed once between each fresh shoeing ; but this, like all general rules, admits of exceptions, for if a horse wears out his shoes in less time than a month, they had better not be removed, or if he has a weak, brittle hoof, and does not carry his shoes longer than five or six weeks, they had better remain untouched, as such feet grow horn very slowly, and are rather injured than benefited by frequent removal of the shoes; but a horse with strong feet, who carries his shoes over a month, should have them removed and refitted at the end of a fortnight or three weeks, dependent on the time his shoes are likely to last. The treatment, or I might almost call it the ill-treatment, that horses' feet receive in the stable requires a good deal of revision, and might very well commence with the all but universal custom of washing the feet and legs with cold water the moment the horses return to the stable from their work, when they are often heated, tired, and exhausted. Nothing can be more injudicious than subjecting them to the sudden chill, caused by a liberal application of cold water to their legs and feet at such a time, and then leaving them to dry as best they can. The amount of cold produced during the process of evaporation is so great, that the poor beasts remain in a state of chilled wretchedness for many hours before they become thoroughly warm again. And as many stables are not provided with hot water at command, the best plan is not to wash them at all when they first come in, but merely to pick out the feet, clean off the dirt, and leave them for several hours, until the circulation has recovered itself aud subsided into a natural state, or even until the following morning, when they may be J safely washed with cold water, and the delay j will do no harm.
This article was originally published with the title "Horseshoeing" in Scientific American 13, 46, 365 (July 1858)