A Text-Book of Horseshoeing
by A. Lungwitz and John W. Adams Copyright 1897
Hoof nurture comprises all those measures which are employed to keep hoofs healthy, elastic, and serviceable.
A. Care of Unshod Hoofs.
The care of the hoofs of colts is of special importance. Abundant exercise upon dry ground which is not too stony is most beneficial. Such exercise will cause the hoofs to wear gradually, and it will only be necessary from time to time to observe whether the wear is taking place uniformly, and if not, to correct the uneven wear with the rasp.
If colts are reared in the stable, the horn continuing to grow down does not undergo sufficient wear, and changes in form of the hoof, and even permanent distortions of the bones of the foot gradually occur. The wall becomes too long and bends or sometimes separates from the sole and keraphyllous layer. Weak quarters bend (curl) inward and encroach upon the space occupied by the frog (contracted feet of colts). The toe becomes too long, and this gives rise to too steep a position of the pastern and causes an insecure and diffident gait; therefore the hoofs must be shortened from time to time. The incurved quarters should be removed with the hoof-knife, and the outer edge of the plantar border of the wall well rounded with the rasp. In the base-wide and base-narrow standing positions the outer and inner walls respectively become relatively long and induce the colt to assume a still more abnormal position. The young and pliant pasterns may thus become permanently twisted and distorted (see Figs. 183 and 184). In a hoof that is becoming awry, restoring to the wall its proper level with relation to the position of the limb will not only be invaluable in ultimately producing a good hoof, but will improve the faulty position of the limb. In exceptional cases, where the plantar border of some section of the wall gives evidence of too rapid wear, the application of a tip or of a half-shoe may be of benefit. Furthermore, we should attempt to secure greater cleanliness by frequently and thoroughly washing the hoofs and bedding with plenty of good straw.
Too early shoeing of young horses is very injurious; it hinders the development of the hoofs, and, furthermore, young horses when shod are frequently seriously overworked and prematurely ruined. Moderate work in the fields does not injure young horses, but for such service they do not require shoes.
The unshod hoofs of older horses should be periodically rounded with a rasp and the length of the walls regulated when, by reason of a lack of exercise, proper wear has not taken place.
B. Care of Shod Hoofs.
Shod hoofs are exposed to many more injuries than are unshod hoofs, because shoeing itself, although absolutely necessary to render horses continuously serviceable upon hard street, is injurious to the hoof, since it to a greater or less extent prevents the physiological movements of the different parts of the foot, interferes with the circulation of the blood in the foot, slows the growth of the horn, and brings about a gradual shrinking of the entire hoof.
In addition, there are the injurious consequences of stabulation. These are prevention of free movement, uncleanliness due to bad floors and filthy bedding, – as, for example, peat moss and soiled straw, – and dryness.
Continuous standing always contributes to contraction of the hoofs, and this evil is greatly favored by dryness, which more particularly affects the front hoofs. The hind hoofs receive sufficient moisture from the animal’s manure. Poor floors, particularly those that are uneven, tire the limbs. Accumulation of manure and the careless use of stationary sole-pads induce thrush of the frog.
The object of hoof nurture is to lessen or entirely remove all these injurious consequences of shoeing and stabulation. It comprises, therefore, not only the proper shortening of the hoofs every five to six weeks, but careful attention to cleanliness and moisture. Both are insured by dry straw and daily picking out and washing the hoofs. Such measures will prevent thrush in the hind feet. If front hoofs are washed once a day, sufficient moisture will penetrate the horn to give it that degree of suppleness (elasticity) which is possessed by an unshod hoof, and which contributes to a proper expansion of the hoof when the body-weight is placed upon it. In order to prevent a hoof from drying out, the entire hoof should receive a thorough application of an oil or ointment (hoof-salve). The object of greasing the horn is to prevent evaporation of the moisture that has penetrated the horn. Specially compounded hoof-salves are not necessary. Melted horsegrease, pork-fat, or any other fat that is not rancid is sufficient. Cosmoline is an excellent hoof-salve.
Abundant but not excessive exercise is more necessary than anything else to the preservation of the health of the hoof. It aids the circulation of blood within the foot, and, therefore, the growth of the horn. Horses which perform hard, regular work have, as a rule, better hoofs than those which stand the greater part of the time in the stable. Poulticing hoofs with clay, bran, linseed-meal, or white-rock, or standing them in water is unnecessary if they have had proper care, but will sometimes be of benefit when the hoofs have been neglected, and especially so for front hoofs. The latter are more exposed to drying influences, and the shoes prevent the moistening process by keeping the hoofs partially or completely removed from contact with the earth. Oiling alone is not sufficient to soften horn, but must always be preceded by permeation of the horn with water. Oiling without first cleansing the hoof is useless, because this soon produces a greasy crust underneath which the horn is crisp and brittle.
The surest sign of cleanliness of a hoof is the appearance of the natural color of the horn, the latter appearing translucent even after the hoof-ointment has been applied; therefore, blackened hoof-ointments should not be used. When hoofs are exposed to too much moisture (muddy roads, melting snow, etc.) an addition of wax or common yellow rosin to the hoof-ointment is recommended to prevent too great softening of the horn. No hoof-ointment has any direct influence upon the growth of the horn.
Inasmuch as it is a fact that the very best shoeing injures the hoof, it is advisable to allow horses to go barefoot whenever it is possible. This applies especially to horses that from any cause are thrown out of service, presupposing, of course, that the nature of the hoofs will allow them to go barefoot.