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The Art of Horse-Shoeing

Updated on December 11, 2016


It is of ancient origin, and there is evidence that the art was practised by the Celts. It does not seem to have been in use among the Greeks or Romans.

The art probably came into general use after the overthrow of the western empire towards the close of the 5th century. In modern times the art has undergone many changes and improvements, as the methods formerly adopted were considered injurious to the animal and a source of considerable loss to the owner.

The following were some of the chief causes of these evils: (1) paring the sole and frog; (2) applying shoes which were too heavy and of the wrong shape; (3) using too many and too large nails; (4) applying shoes too small and removing the wall of the foot to make the feet fit them; (5) rasping the front or wall of the hoof. These were often due to lack of skill on the part of workmen who combined the duties of blacksmith and shoesmith in one trade, and who lacked the necessary basic knowledge of the anatomy and function of the horse's foot. According to modern principles: (1) shoes should be as light as is compatible with the wear required of them; (2) the ground face of the shoe should be concave, and the face applied to the foot plain; (3) heavy draught horses alone should have toe and heel calks on their shoes to increase the foothold; (4) only the excess of growth of the wall or outer portion of horny matter should be removed in reshoeing and care is to be taken to keep both sides of the hoof of equal height; (5) the shoes should fit accurately to the circumference of the hoof and project slightly beyond the heel; (6) as few nails as possible should be used; (7) the nails should take a short, thick hold of the wall so that the old nail holes may be removed in paring the excess growth of the horny substance.

Special types of shoes are used for different purposes, such as for hunting, showing, racing, roadwork, and to cure individual problems in the gait of the horse, for example striking himself with his hoof. The foot is composed of a horny substance which becomes brittle and breaks away, especially as a result of extra strenuous work. In order to prevent this, the rim of iron is placed on the foot and can be renewed from time to time. The shoes and nails are now manufactured very economically by machinery.


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