Horseshoeing Part 3A

A Text-Book of Horseshoeing

Part 3A

by A. Lungwitz and John W. Adams Copyright 1897

This is the third part in what will be a complete reprint of Lungwitz & Adams’ important ‘Textbook of Horse-Shoeing’ originally written in the 1880’s and containing some remarkably modern information. This volume goes into the greatest detail on the subject and with an intelligent clarity that belies how old it is. Coming as it did at the end of the first horse era, and well before anyone might have reasonably predicted the advent of the automobile and tractor, it is apparent how important the equine was to the whole of society. The authors, of Germany and Pennsylvania, compiled what was, at the time, to be the ultimate word on the subject. As with all of the reprints we have offered over forty years time, we trust that readers will be triggered by these words to complete their education with diligence and introspection. Just because something is old doesn’t always make it right, and of course just because something is new doesn’t make it the true culmination. LRM



A. Examination of a Horse Preliminary to Shoeing.

An examination should be made while the animal is at rest, and afterwards while in motion. The object of the examination is to gain accurate knowledge of the direction and movements of the limbs, of the form and character of the feet and hoofs, of the manner in which the foot reaches and leaves the ground, of the form, length, position, and wear of the shoe, and distribution of the nail-holes, in order that at the next and subsequent shoeings all ascertained peculiarities of hoof-form may be kept in mind and all discovered faults of shoeing corrected.

The examination is best conducted in the following order: The horse should first be led at a walk in a straight line from the observer over as level a surface as possible, then turned about and brought back, that the examiner may notice the direction of the limbs and the manner in which the hoofs are moved and set to the ground. While the animal is moving away the observer notices particularly the hind limbs, and as it comes towards him he examines the fore-limbs. Then a few steps at a trot will not only show whether or not the animal is lame but will often remove all doubt in those cases in which, while the animal was walking, the examiner was unable to make up his mind as to which was the predominating position of the limb. The problem presented is, therefore, to determine whether or not the direction of the limbs, the lines of flight of the hoofs, and the manner in which they are set down and picked up are regular. If there are deviations from the normal they will fall either into the base-wide and toe-wide group or into the base-narrow and toe-narrow group. When clear upon these points the horse is allowed to stand quietly, and the observer, placing himself in front, examines the foot more closely, fixes the direction of the foot axis clearly in his mind, marks also the form and character of the hoofs and the position of the coronets, as far as these parts can be inspected from in front. At the same time each hoof should be closely inspected to determine whether the slant of both quarters corresponds to the direction of the long pastern, and whether the course of the wall from the coronet to the plantar border is straight or bent in or out (contraction, fullness). Walls curved from above to below always indicate an unnatural height of some section of the wall and a displacement of the base of support of the foot. In order to gain accurate and complete knowledge of the position of the limbs, the flight of the hoofs, and the manner of setting the foot to the ground, the horse must frequently be moved back and forth many times, especially when the standing position is somewhat irregular and the hoofs are of different shapes.

At this point begins the examination of the position of the limbs, and the form of the feet and hoofs, in profile. After casting a glance over the entire body, so as to gain an idea of the animal’s weight, height, and length, the attention is turned to the position and direction of the limbs and hoofs. The eye should particularly note whether the form of the hoof corresponds to the position of the limb, and, furthermore, whether the slant of the pastern is the same as that of the wall at the toe, — that is, whether the foot axis is straight or broken; also whether the toes and quarters are parallel for the toe is sometimes bulging (convex) or hollowed out (concave) between the coronet and plantar border, and the quarters are frequently contracted and drawn or shoved under the foot (weak quarters). If the wall present rings the observer should note their position with reference to one another and to the coronet, and also their extent and furthermore should determine whether or not they cross one another (thrush of the frog). At the same time he should notice the length of the shoes.

Horseshoeing Part 3A

Next, the feet should be raised and the examiner should notice the width of the hoof, the arching of the sole, the character of the frog, the position of the bulbs of the heel, as well as the presence of any cracks or clefts in the wall. Then the old shoes should be examined as to their age, form, the distribution and direction of their nail-holes (“punching”), position, and wear. With respect to the form of the old shoe, one should observe whether or not it corresponds to the form of the hoof. The same careful examination should be made of the number and distribution of the nail-holes. As regards the position of the shoe, one must first ascertain whether it completely covers the bearing-surface of the wall, and whether the shoe extends beyond the wall at any point and has caused interfering or given rise to irregular wear. Finally, the wear of the shoe should be observed, and the following points borne in mind: One-sided wear, uneven setting down of the feet, and an unnatural course of the wall are often found together, especially when uneven wearing of the shoe has existed for a long time, — that is, during several shoeings. As a rule, in such a case the more worn branch of the shoe is too near the center of the foot, and opposite branch too far from the center (too “full”); in other words, the base of support (shoe) has been shifted too far in the direction of the less worn branch. Moreover, increased wear of a part of a shoe is an indication that the section of the wall above it is too high (too long) (Fig. 89), or that the wall upon the opposite side of the foot is too low (short). The twisting movement of many hind feet should, from physiological reasons, not be hindered by shoeing.

B. Raising and Holding the Feet of the Horse to be Shod.

This can always be done without much trouble if the horse has been accustomed to it from early colthood. Certain rules governing the manner of taking hold of the feet, and of afterwards manipulating them, are of value.

A shoer should never grasp a foot suddenly, or with both hands. The horse should first he prepared for this act. First see that the horse stands in such a position that he can bear his weight comfortably upon three legs. This is well worth noticing, and if the horse does not voluntarily assume such an easy position, move him gently until his feet are well under his body.

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If the shoer, for example, wishes to raise the left fore foot for inspection, he stands on the left side facing the animal, speaks quietly to him, places the palm of the right hand flat upon the animal’s shoulder, and, at the same time, with the left hand strokes the limb downward to the cannon and seizes the cannon from in front. With the right hand he now gently presses the horse towards the opposite side, and the foot becoming loose as the weight is shifted upon the other leg, he lifts it from the ground. The right hand now grasps the pastern from the inside followed by the left hand upon the inside and the right hand on the outside; then, turning partly to the right, the holder supports the horse’s leg upon his left leg, in which position he should always stand as quietly and firmly as possible. If, now, the shoer desires to have both hands free to work upon the hoof, he grasps the toe with the left hand in such a manner that the toe rests firmly in the palm while the four fingers are closely applied to the wall of the toe, takes a half step toward the rear, passes the hoof behind his left knee into his right hand which has been passed backward between his knees to receive it, and drawing the hoof forward outward and upward supports it firmly on his two knees, — the legs just above the knees being applied tightly against the pastern. The forefoot should not he raised higher than the knee (carpus), nor the hind foot higher than the hock, nor either foot be drawn too far backward. The correct standing position of the shoer or floorman while holding a front foot is shown in Fig. 91. Shortness of stature (5’-5’6”) is desirable in a floorman.

In lifting the left hind foot the animal should be gently stroked back as far as the angle of the hip, against which the left hand is placed for support, while the right hand strokes the limb down to the middle of the cannon, which it grasps from behind. While the left hand presses the animal’s weight over towards the right side, the right hand loosens the foot and carries it forward and outward from the body so that the limb is bent at the hock. The holder then turns his body towards the right, brings his left leg against the anterior surface of the fetlock-joint, and carries the foot backward, at which time his left arm passes over the horse’s croup and above and to the inner side of the hock. Finally, both hands encompass the long pastern. If the right feet are to be raised, the process is simply reversed.

In raising the feet no unnecessary pain should be inflicted by pinching, squeezing, or lifting a limb too high. The wise shoer avoids all unnecessary clamor and disturbance; quiet, rapid, painless methods avail much more. In dealing with young horses the feet should not be kept lifted too long; let them down from time to time. In old and stiff horses the feet should not be lifted too high, especially in the beginning of the shoeing.

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Vicious horses must often be severely handled. Watch the play of the ears and eyes continually, and immediately punish every exhibition of temper either by jerking the halter or bridle vigorously, or by loud commands. If this does not avail, then if soft ground is at hand make the horse back as rapidly as possible for some time over this soft surface; it is very disagreeable and tiresome to him. To raise a hind foot we may knot a strong, broad, soft, plaited band (side line) into the tail, loop it about the fetlock of the hind foot, and hold the end. This often renders valuable service. The holder seizes the band close to the fetlock, draws the foot forward under the body, and then holds it as above described. The use of such a band compels the horse to carry a part of his own weight, and at the same time hinders him from kicking. Before attempting to place this rope or band about the fetlock, the front foot on the same side should be raised.

The various sorts of twitches are objectionable, and their use should not be allowed unless some painful hoof operation is to be done. The application of the tourniquet, or “Spanish windlass,” to the hind leg is equally objectionable.

Those horses which resist our attempts to shoe them we do not immediately cast or place in the stocks, but first have a quiet, trustworthy man hold them by the bridle-reins and attempt by gentle words and soft caresses to win their attention and confidence.

Ticklish horses must be taken hold of boldly, for light touches of the hand are to such animals much more unpleasant than energetic, rough handling. Many ticklish horses allow their feet to be raised when they are grasped suddenly without any preparatory movements.

C. Removing the Old Shoes.

If a horse’s hoofs are healthy, all the shoes may be taken off at the same time, but there are certain diseases of the hoof in which this should not be done.

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The rule to follow in removing every shoe is to draw it cautiously, not wrench it away with violence. Hoofs which are dirty should first be cleansed, preferably with a stiff brush. Next, the clinches should be carefully lifted by means of a rather dull clinch cutter (Fig. 93), without injuring the horn of the wall. In order, now, that the nails may be removed singly the shoe must be slightly lifted. This may be done in one of two ways. The shoer may use a pair of pincers (Fig. 94), with broad bills which will encompass the branch of the shoe and come well together underneath it. The handles of the pincers are then moved in the direction of the branches of the shoe. The second method consists in raising the branches of the shoe by driving the nail-cutter from behind between the shoe and hoof and using it as a lever or pry to loosen the shoe.

Violent and excessive twisting of the hoof and straining of ligaments may easily occur, but the smith should guard against them by supporting the hoof with the left hand or with the leg just above the knee, while loosening the shoe.

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D. Preparing the Hoof for the Shoe.

This preparation is usually termed paring, trimming, or dressing. It is a most important step in the process of shoeing, and its object is to shorten the hoof, which has grown too long under the projection of the shoe, and prepare it to receive the new shoe. The instruments needed for this work are the rasp and the hoof-knife (Fig. 95); upon large and hard hoofs a pair of sharp nippers (Fig. 96), or a sharp hewing knife, with broad handle and perfectly flat, smooth sides, may be used, since these instruments will considerably facilitate and hasten the work.

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After the shoer has carefully examined the hoofs in the manner described at the beginning of this chapter, and has fixed in mind the relation of the height of the hoofs to the size and weight of the body, he cleanses the hoof and removes all stubs of old nails. At the same time he should be asking himself if, where, and how much horn is to be removed. In all cases all loosely attached fragments of horn are to be removed, for example, chips of horn produced by repeated bending and stretching of the lower border of the wall. The sole is then freed from all flakes of dead horn. The shoer then runs the rasp around the outer border of the wall and breaks it off to the depth to which he thinks it should be shortened, and then cuts the wall down to its union with the sole, so that at least one-eighth of an inch of the edge of the sole lies in the same level as the, bearing-surface of the wall. Finally, the wall, white line, and outer margin of the sole, forming the “bearing-surface,” must be rasped until they are perfectly horizontal, except that at the toe of forehoofs this bearing-surface may be rasped slightly upward (rolled toe).

In dressing the hoof the branches of the frog should always be left prominent enough to project beyond the bearing-surface of the quarters about the thickness of an ordinary flat shoe. If it be weakened by paring, it is deprived of its activity, shrinks, and the hoof becomes narrow to a corresponding degree. The frog should, therefore, be trimmed only when it is really too prominent. However, loose and diseased particles of horn may be trimmed away when it is affected with thrush.

The bars should be spared and never shortened except when too long. Their union with the wall at the quarters must in no case be weakened, and never cut through (opening up the heels). They should be left as high as the wall at the quarters, or only a little less, while the branches of the sole should lie about one-eighth of an inch lower.

The buttress (angle formed by the union of wall and bar) requires special attention. In healthy unshod hoofs the bars run backward and outward in a straight line from the anterior third of the frog. In shod hoofs, however, it happens that the buttresses gradually lengthen, curl inward, and press upon the branches of the frog, causing the latter to shrink. In such cases the indication is to remove these prolongations of horn from the buttresses so as to restore to the bars their normal direction.

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The sharp edge of the plantar border of the wall should be broken away with a rasp until the relative thickness of the wall equals its absolute thickness. (Fig. 97). However, in healthy hoofs, that is, in those whose walls are straight from the coronet to the ground, the outer surface of the wall should never be rasped. The only exceptions to this rule are those cases in which there is an outward bending of the lower edge of the wall, most frequent on the inner side wall and quarter.

With respect to the inclination of the ground-surface of the hoof to the direction of the foot axis, as viewed from in front, the following facts are established:

In the regular standing position of the limbs (seen from in front) the plantar surface of a hoof is at right angles to the foot axis, and the outer and inner walls are of equal heights.

In the base-wide position of the limbs the plantar hoof-surface is more or less inclined to the foot axis, usually to a very small degree, and the outer wall is somewhat higher (longer) and more slanting than the inner.

In the base-narrow position of the limbs the plantar hoof-surface is more or less inclined to the direction of the foot axis, usually quite considerably, and the inner wall is somewhat higher than the outer.

The foot is observed from the side in order to determine the proper relation of the length of the toe to the height of the quarters.

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In this also the foot axis is our guide. If this axis is as it should be, the wall at the toe and the long pastern will have the same slant (Figs. 67, 68 and 69). If the hoof has become too long under the protection of the shoe, this will be shown by the foot axis being no longer a straight line, but broken backward at the coronet (Fig. 98); that is, the, hoof in comparison with the fetlock will be too slanting. By shortening the toe more than the quarters this faulty relation will be corrected (Fig. 100) and the foot restored to its proper slant. If the quarters are too long (too high) in comparison with the length of the toe, the foot axis will be broken forward at the coronet (Fig. 99), and the hoof will be too upright. By shortening the quarters, more than the toe the foot axis may be made straight. The plantar surface of the hoof is therefore correct (balanced) when the horse places the foot flat upon the ground in travelling, and when the lines bounding the hoof, viewed from in front, from behind, and in profile, correspond to the direction of the three phalanges (foot axis).

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Finally, this fact should be emphasized, that in changing from flat shoes to those with calks, or the reverse, the hoofs must first be dressed in accordance, so that the foot axes will remain straight, and the feet be set always flat to the ground when the new shoes are on. Each hoof, when ready for the new shoe, should be let down and the horse allowed to stand upon it while it is again carefully examined and closely compared with the opposite hoof. Only after such close inspection has proved the dressing to be faultless can the hoof be considered as properly prepared and ready for the shoe. The two front hoofs and the two hind hoofs, when the legs are in the same position, should not only be of equal size, but also in proper relation to the size and weight of the body.

E. Preparing the Hoof for going Barefoot.

This becomes necessary when the nature of the ground and the kind of service required of the horse render shoeing unnecessary. However, to go barefoot the hoof must have plenty of horn. After removing the shoes the frog should be pared down nearly to the level of the wall, and the sharp outer edge of the wall well rounded off with the rasp, in some cases as far as the white line, otherwise large pieces of the wall will readily break away. Hoofs with very slanting walls must be more strongly rounded off than upright hoofs. Going barefoot strengthens the hoofs. From time to time the condition of these shoeless hoofs should be ascertained by inspection, and any growing fault in shape or direction of the horn immediately corrected. It quite frequently happens that the sharp edge of the wall must be repeatedly rounded, especially on very oblique walls (outer half of base-wide hoofs), and the quarters may require frequent shortening, because they are not always worn away as fast as the horn at the toe.