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Simple cases of contraction.

Contraction, in a greater or less degree, is exhibited by all horses, of every grade, that have been shod in the common way, except in those more unfortunate cases that have resulted in a breaking of the arch of the foot, from lack of the natural frog support, when the phenomena of “dropped sole” are found, and the usual accompaniment of “pumiced feet.”

It may seem superfluous to say that the power and action of the horse are greatly restricted by contraction.

The cartilaginous fibre that forms the bulk of the substance of the foot behind the great back sinew is squeezed into narrow space, the working of the joints compressed, and inflammation at the joints, or at the wings of the coffin-bone, is excited; in worse cases navicular disease is established, or, from inadequate circulation, thrush holds possession at the frog, or scratches torment the heels.

When simple contraction shown in the narrow heel, dried and shrunken frog, and “pegging” motion of the horse is the case, our design is at once to restore the natural action of the foot. This must be done by expansion, and that is to be had from frog-pressure, according to the directions in the preceding chapters. If navicular disease has commenced, and the animal is decidedly lame, we have a difficult case. The membrane of this important bone, in some cases of contraction, becomes ulcerated, and the bone itself may be decayed, or adhesion between the coffin-bone and the navicular and pastern may take place. Without expansion there is no possibility of relief; local bleeding, poulticing, and all the drastic drugs of the veterinary will be invoked in vain.


This disease, usually attributed to “heat,” “dry weather,” “weak feet,” etc., is one of the common symptoms of contraction, and can be entirely cured with the greatest ease; nor will it ever recur if the hoof is kept in proper condition.

If the case is recent, shoe as advised in our paragraph upon “Incipient Unsoundness,” being sure to cut the heel well down, putting the bearing fully upon the frog and three-quarters of the foot. If the hoof is weak from long contraction and defective circulation, lower the heels and whole wall, until the frog comes well upon the ground, and shoe with a “slipper,” or “tip,” made by cutting off a light shoe just before the middle calk, drawing it down and lowering the toe-calk partially. This will seem dangerous to those who have not tried it, but it is not so. The horse may flinch a little at first, from his unaccustomed condition, and from the active life that will begin to stir in his dry, hard, and numb foot, but he will enjoy the change. The healing of the crack will be from the coronet down, and it is good practice to cut with a sharp knife just above the split, and to clean all dirt and dead substance out from the point where you cut, downwards. Soaking the feet in water will facilitate a cure by quickening the growth of the hoof; or, a stimulating liniment may be applied to the coronet, to excite more active growth. Bear in mind that expansion is not from the sole upwards, but from the coronet downwards.


The cause of this defect is the same as in quarter crack. It appears in both fore and hind feet. Clean the crack well, cutting with a sharp knife the dead horn from each side of it; shoe as advised for quarter crack, or for the purpose of getting expansion and natural action of the dead, shelly hoof. The dirt and sand may be kept out of the crack by filling it with balsam of fir, or pine pitch. Keep the horse at regular work.